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Samsung's Galaxy Note 3 goes beyond carrier locking, implements region locks

Customers are up in arms as news comes that the SIM-unlocked version of Samsung's latest Note "phablet" features DVD-style region locking, meaning that frequent intercontinental travelers must pay carrier roaming rates to use their devices on a cellular network overseas.

On the heels of accusations that Samsung aped Apple's iPhone 5s with the release of its new gold-colored Galaxy S4 variant, the Korean electronics giant is facing yet another public relations disaster. GigaOm reported on Thursday that SIM-unlocked European and North American versions of the Galaxy Note 3, Samsung's newest entrant in the "phablet" race, are limited to using SIM cards only from the regions where they were purchased.

According to British technology retailer Clove, the European version of the device ships with a sticker advising the buyer that the "product is only compatible with a SIM-card issued from a mobile operator within Europe." This could be bad news for frequent travelers, as it means they will be unable to purchase and use lower-cost local SIM cards when they move outside the device's home region, instead being forced to succumb to often-onerous roaming conditions from their home carriers.

Region locks are normally employed for content — such as movies or video games — that faces licensing policies which vary based on geographical boundaries. The popular canonical example of region locking is the restriction placed on DVDs: Discs and players must feature matching region codes in order to work, which famously caused headaches for frequent MacBook-toting international travelers as the laptop's DVD drive region setting could only be changed five times.

The news comes as Apple begins to expand its own support for globetrotting owners of the company's iOS devices. On Tuesday, it was revealed that Cupertino plans to lift geographic restrictions on its popular AppleCare+ warranty coverage, allowing travelers to have their device serviced outside of their home country.