Samsung phones are region-locked – but it is not stopping the shonkies! We name and shame!


Most phones Samsung sells in Australia are region-locked to ensure that only network-certified models are sold here.

Samsung calls it ‘Made for Australia‘. Buying a region-locked phone is no issue for the average Aussie who buys from an authorised reseller.

In fact, its Samsung Galaxy S phones have been region-locked since 2015 and you would not have known!

As long as you activate the phone in Australia or with the carrier (if locked to a carrier – usually printed on the box) and use it for at least five minutes talk time, then everything is normal. You can use sims from any country after that.

eSIM versions are also region-locked and require activation here first.

Region-locked is not unreasonable!

Samsung is trying to protect our interests from unscrupulous grey market and parallel importers. These bring in phones from other regions that may be stolen, refurbs, second-hand, demos, seconds, or even counterfeit.

The majority of these have

  • A non-genuine international round/flat pin charger
  • Shrinkwrapped – no box (so you cannot check the original carton for the region or LTE bands printed on it)
  • Do not support all 4G (or 5G) bands used here
  • Won’t make a 000 emergency call without a SIM
  • May not hand off properly from one tower to another (billing issues and dropouts)
  • Won’t accept over-the-air firmware updates – ever!
  • So, you end up with 3G for most use

But these grey market importers are wise to this. They activate the phone where they bought it (in Hong Kong or China, for example) before shipment to Australia. So, region lock does not affect these handsets, but they still have warranty issues and firmware update issues.

The more that I learn about different networks and countries implementations, the more I can see why Joe and Jane Average need this protection.

For example, in Australia, Telstra and Optus use band 4G LTE 28 for improved in-building and small or microcell reception as found in many rural areas. Without that, your expensive phone reverts to the standard global 3G voice-only UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) or CDMA (mainly China).

And most grey market phones will not access over-the-air firmware updates or security patches as these are region-specific.

No so-called bargain is worth the cripplingly slow data speeds you get over 3G.

Who to avoid? We name and shame!

Any Samsung grey marketer. Many will claim it is ‘Made for Australia’. Or it is an ‘international model’ and works with all major Australian networks.

They offer ‘warranty’ under obscure terms such as the Consumer Charter, but that only means the merchant, not Samsung Australia covers it. Samsung can only honour a warranty on Australian certified phones.

The main offenders are (in order of prevalence)

  • Kogan/Dick Smith,
  • MobileCity/ MobileCiti/Mobiciti
  • Mobile Australia
  • Allphones
  • BecexTech Australia
  • Amazon (marketplace sellers)
  • Australian Warehouse
  • Buy Mobile Australia
  • eBay (marketplavce sellers)
  • JC Browns Market
  • OZ Mobiles
  • Playthek
  • ProdStop AU
  • T-Dimension
  • TechBuy
  • TobyDeals AU
  • and hundreds more (many are a guise for the same companies)

And you may find low-cost computer suppliers also like eXpansys, Skycomp, Auditech and more flogging them too.

It is not just Samsung either. These damned opportunists flog dodgy Apple, Google Pixel, Motorola, OPPO, vivo, Xiaomi, One Plus and more – all unauthorised and uncertified for use in Australia.

Samsung’s authorised reseller list includes

  • Amazon (Samsung Australia online store only – not merchants)
  • Australia Post
  • Betta
  • BIG W
  • Bing Lee
  • Costco
  • David Jones
  • Harvey Norman
  • JB Hi-Fi
  • Myer
  • Officeworks
  • Optus
  • Radio Rentals
  • Retravision
  • RT Edwards
  • Target
  • Telstra
  • The Good Guys
  • Vodafone
  • Woolworths

GadgetGuy’s take – I like a bargain too but not at the expense of warranty and network compatibility.

I wrote this because a reader bought a so-called ‘New Australian/NZ model’ (see image below) Samsung Galaxy S10 after our review last year. He wanted a flagship at a discount.


He bought from Kogan/Dick Smith (link here). After severely chastising him (as Kogan/Dick Smith are among the rogue’s gallery of grey/parallel importers) we found

  • It was supposed to be new, but the call counter said otherwise
  • Was shrinkwrapped (no carton)
  • No regulatory C-Tick
  • Had a flat two-pin charger
  • Did not support band 28
  • Model G9730/DS (for China)
  • It would not do an over-the-air firmware update (as it was not in China)

It was supposed to be SM-G973F/DS (S10 8/128GB). The F is Australia, and /DS is dual sim unlocked. We always note the genuine model number in our reviews.

Kogan staff flatly and rudely told him that there are no returns because “He made an incorrect purchase. He did not specify that it had to be a particular model number.” Oh well – he is off to Fair Trading to join the Kogan complaints queue!

Caveat Emptor! There is a good reason for region-locked

Have a read on the carefully wordsmithed Kogan Direct Import page. Would you buy a used phone from this man?

  1. Hi i need to confirm that a samsung note 20 5G 256 gb model I bought at jb hifi is not a grey model. As I actually purchased 1 which I returned, 2nd phone had the same issue. Each phone showed 4 distinct circles (5 cent size) on the screen when attempting to use the pen in shading. No model no was put on receipt only description as above and imei #. Can I use this to find out if this was a genuine phone. Thx

  2. Hi Ray, interesting article. I have known about grey imports for a very long time and I avoid them totally, not just for ethical reasons as you expressed, but for functionality. So I always buy Australian models and I always stick with Samsung phones.
    I wanted to say that I bought from Allphones who is on your naughty list and my phone is genuine Aussie model, with a C Tick and serial number and does over the air updates. The model number was stated in the ad and description is accurate. So maybe you should ask Allphones if they still supply dodgy phones because mine is fine.

    1. Hi Mick
      As far as I am aware Allphones does import grey market stock for some brands and models. You may have been lucky buying excess or runout stock that these companies often get. If Allphones wants to contact us we are happy to review their listing.
      More importantly 10 points to you for reading about grey market!

  3. Your assertion that mobileciti belongs in this group is incorrect.
    I have purchased numerous australian stock phones from this supplier, and have had the local manufacturers authenticate and accept handsets for warranty repair without charge without going through mobileciti.
    They are often used by Australian Government departments to purchase as well.
    While I agree, Kogan and many other suppliers here belong, I do not believe MobileCiti does and for that reason I find myself calling into question your motivation for having them at number 2 on this list.

    1. Simple – Mobicity at Paramatta and its other sub-brands were, in the past, one of the biggest grey market offenders.It may have changed its spots but I have not seen any evidence of that apart from your comment. A few facts. It will not provide the manufacturers model number – instead uses its own SKU. On the Samsung store locator is does not list Mobicity either as an online or Parramatta store. TrustPilot gives it 1.6 out of 5 stars with 348 negative reviews. I think its safest to stick to the major retailers.
      A prime purpose of any review is to provide the Australian certified model number and firwmare version and make people aware that their is a huge shonky grey market out there. I Mobicity wants to contact me and provide proof that all its phones are direct from the vendors then I will be happy to update the article.

      1. I have had 1 experience when I was unaware of an imported phone purchase until a warranty claim was needed, hence I ended up having to get a new phone due to not being covered in Australia. I have just purchased a new LG phone through a legitimate seller but I was looking at Mobileciti and rang them as well and they do look very legitimate. They even have a full discloure to read under Australian warranty. Maybe you need to confirm your information before adding companies names on your bad list, it would be the decent thing to do wouldn’t it.

        1. A leopard does not change its spots. We won’t give oxygen to any company that has badly transgressed in the past. Your LG may have been legitimate but most of its range is grey/parallel imports. And it gets a 1-star rating on Trustpilot and other review sites.

  4. This is absolute nonsense, especially the part where you are defending Samsung’s region-locking practice just reads like a paid ad! I own an S10+ that I purchased overseas unlocked (where I lived), from the Samsung store in that country, then I moved here, popped in an Optus sim card and I’ve had LTE+ with 100-200 Mbps in the Adelaide metro region and get Over-the-air updates every single month without a single issue. I’ve also tried Vodafone and T-Mobile and they all work perfectly fine. I did not purchase it from the “grey” market, I had to buy an adapter from Jb Hi-Fi (like $40, not a big deal), and don’t really have a warranty anymore (but who cares? its been over a year already, so my warranty is gone anyways).

    This entire article looks like a big paid Samsung ad, and if you can get an international variant, it should work perfectly fine here. Just check the bands (the information is usually listed on the seller page, and cross-check the model with GSM Arena), and make sure that the 4G bands used in Australia are compatible by googling “GSM Australia bands”. That’s it! Avoid the silly Australia tax and get yourself the exact same phone.

    1. Dear Mario
      Samsung does not advertise with us. All reviews are 100% independent and cannot be bought!
      The article is not absolute nonsense and we wrote it because the growing dodgy grey/parallel market was leaving so many buyers/readers without warranty or comeback. Grey marketers are savvy to Samsung’s (and a growing number of other brands) region locking and activate the phone in the region, e.g. HK or China before shrink wrapping and shipping.
      Now in your case it was activated OS and will work here – the article made that clear but your warranty is now from OS – not Samsung Australia.
      Your knowledge of LTE licensing rules and now 5G, as well as bands used in each country, needs to improve. Then perhaps we can have an intelligent comment from you.

      1. What you are stating Rayzor looks like an ad as Mario said. I have bought all my smartphones from sellers you call shonkies and have had great service from all the companies from whom I bought. Although I agree some are bad. I pointed out to one seller that their phones did not deliver australian frequencies they paid no attention neither did the NSW ombudsman . One phone had to go back to Kogan and replaced without a problem. Mostly I buy from aliexpress nowadays. They state whether they work here or not. Have not had a bad deal yet.

        1. If it works for you then great. The problem is that most phone makers are trying to stamp this grey market out and are refusing
          – Warranty claims
          – Over-the-air updates are now model and regional specific
          – Band 28 700MHz is far more vital for in-building and now rural coverage. You can get away without it in the cities only.
          – No 000 calls without a SIM
          – No default to Australian area codes

          In the past, I have chased bargains but these were for 2/3/4G phones that work pretty well anywhere and default back to 3G most of the time. From 5G onwards and especially eSIM grey market is a no-no.

      2. What you are stating Rayzor looks like an ad as Mario said. I have bought all my smartphones from sellers you call shonkies and have had great service from all the companies from whom I bought. Although I agree some are bad. I pointed out to one seller that their phones did not deliver australian frequencies thay paid no attention neither did the NSW ombudsman . One phone had to go back to Kogan and replaced without a problem. Mostly I buy from aliexpress nowadays. They state whether they work here or not. Have not had a bad deal yet.

  5. Have a s10 plus that is region locked to optus the problem being is i use vodafone and weeks after owning it and making tons of call the lock is still there and it sometimes gets big drop out on the network and that is because it is regional locked to optus different frequency and it won’t let me flash unbranded or even vodafone rom…….

    1. Hi Pete
      You sound like you know your way around ROMs. First, I assume you bought it from Optus on a plan so its genuine Australian stock. Ring them and ask for the cost to unlock it. I understand its less than $80 (often way less if they are in a good mood) and they can give you the code. Once unlocked it should get Samsung over the air updates via Voda and all will be well.

  6. Good discussion, but misses the point that some Samsung Models are not available in Australia. Several years ago I wanted a dual sim card model S8 for traveling, Kogan sent me one from UAE. Yes some poorly performing apps do not work on it eg some banks and our own Covidsafe app but most do. Restricting what is available in Aust, is not necessarily great.

    1. Valid comment and I guess the risk of a warranty claim is lower with a Samsung. At least you knew what you were getting into – Joe and Jane Average don’t.

      1. It is unlocked to all networks the problem is it is region locked and won’t flash even a unbranded rom……samsung tell me it is a optus issue and optus tell me it is a samsung issue……

        1. Hi Pete
          It appears that your phone has been infected (my guess). I assume you have backed it up to Google or the Samsung cloud. I would first do a full factory reset and see if the issues persist. Then you can either clean install all apps and reenter logins and passwords (best but you may lose any paid apps). Or you could risk reinstating the phone from the cloud backup.

        2. Try using a different USB port Pete, if you’re using Odin (which is a Samsung developed tool), it can be finicky with your USB ports. I had odin work with my USB C port via an adapter, but my 2 USB A ports did not work.

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