The last time I looked Samsung, a global leader in digital media and digital convergence technologies, was a vendor of many consumer products, but not, of all things, a market regulator. So how does a company selling mobile phones, smart or otherwise, get off by telling me where I should buy my phones from?
“Samsung’s Regional SIM Lock is a new addition to its current smartphone features, introduced with the newly launched GALAXY Note 3 to provide quality customer service across the world and an optimized mobile user experience,” says a recent press release (PR) from Samsung. The PR adds, “This is an important feature that we have introduced in many other markets to help improve customer experiences and services.”
I cannot think of anything that Samsung could do that would alienate its global customers than this new regional-lock feature. Basically, the lock feature has nothing to do with ‘providing quality customer service, or improving customer experiences and services’, it has everything to do with protecting the company’s authorized retailers and resellers from grey market competition — but at the expense of their customer loyalty.
In a globalized economy, it is ridiculous for a global company like Samsung to decide where I should buy my smartphone, or to restrain me to buying only from a local reseller dictated by them. It is my money and I get to decide whether I want to buy from Amazon, eBay, Uzbekistan, from the local grey market; or even whether I need to buy a Samsung product.
iPhones tied to an iOS architecture can get away with their regional locks; for a mobile vendor running on a vanilla android platform to even suggest regional locks, is plain stupidity. Or perhaps Samsung has grown too big for their boots now that they are the number one vendor of mobile phones. However, the company needs to remember there were other number ones before them, and also that there are other vendors waiting on the sidelines, LG, HTC, Huawei and Nexus to name but a few.
The press release from Samsung further adds that, “Local consumer’s that bought their device in the UAE need not worry, as the regional SIM Lock feature is currently not available in the UAE but if consumers buy a device abroad and bring it back, they could find they are unable to use the device.” The release adds that, “SIM Lock feature will also be rolled out to other Samsung devices including the GALAXY Note 2, GALAXY S3, GALAXY S4 and the GALAXY S4 Mini, through software updates.”
In other words, if you bought any of the above models unlocked from outside the region earlier, you could suddenly find it automatically gets locked when you attempt to update with the latest versions of android. Forget the legal implications of such a move, just think of the number of customers who are going to say, “Good-bye ‘Ya Sammy.”