Verizon Galaxy S3 'world phone' coming. But when?

Verizon said the Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphones it sells would be ready to roam the world soon after launch. Two months later, customers are still waiting.

Danny Sullivan
Danny Sullivan is a journalist who has covered the search and internet marketing space for over 15 years. He's founding editor of Search Engine Land and Marketing Land, and writes a personal blog called Daggle (and maintains his disclosures page there).
Danny Sullivan
3 min read

Readers keep asking me for an update. When's Verizon going to make its Samsung Galaxy S3 phones capable of global roaming, as I wrote about in an earlier column. Bad news: Verizon's still not saying when, though it promises the capability will still come.

Let's go back to what I was told by Verizon in June, from my column about using the Galaxy S3 to roam both within and outside the U.S.:

The Verizon model of the Galaxy S3 will be global ready for GSM roaming after a software update that will be pushed sometime after launch. After the phone gets the software update to be global ready, customers don't need to call customer service to have it unlocked if they wish to use a local SIM while traveling. They can also call Verizon to have an international data plan added if they'd like.

The Galaxy S3 launched with Verizon in early July, about two months ago. Customers are still waiting for that promised update. And the information they get from the Verizon reps they contact can be confusing.

In late July, one reader contacted me to say that when he asked Verizon about the update, a customer service rep told him that my column was in error, that Verizon hadn't confirmed anything. Here's the e-mail he was sent:

Neither Samsung nor Verizon Wireless has made any announcement about the Galaxy S3 becoming a global phone. Anything stating otherwise on any Web site is either speculation or a rumor. Though this certainly is not impossible -- two of our 4G phones, the Droid Razr and Droid Razr Maxx, were recently updated to being global capable -- there has been no such announcement about the Galaxy S3. The only other phones currently announced to become global phones at a later date are the HTZ Rezound and the Motorola Droid 4. This could definitely be a possibility, but we have no date as we don't know if this will even happen.

Clearly, the rep was mistaken. After all, my column cited Verizon itself confirming that the phone would have global roaming capabilities. At least when my reader went back and sent the rep my actual column, the rep admitted learning something new.

Another reader who wrote me late last month had a sales rep tell him that the phone could do global roaming. Good news! The bad news is that the sales rep didn't know that the capability hadn't yet been switched on:

Verizon sales guy told me it would work in Europe, so I bought it and found out otherwise. When I got back, he told me that it's a software issue and Samsung is planning to release a fix. Saw your CNET article and was wondering if you've had any further updates from Verizon. I know the hardware is capable and the phone is awesome otherwise, so I'd like to keep it if the update is coming near-term, next couple of months.  Any insight you can provide would be appreciated.

Happy to try to help. I went back to Verizon, where a representative e-mailed me a response late last week:

The software update is coming but I do not have a time frame right now. 

So hang in there, Galaxy S3 owners with Verizon who are looking to travel abroad. The update is still coming, but the wait continues.

The issue raises a second question I'm hoping to still get answered from Verizon. The carrier's version of the iPhone 5 comes ready to roam GSM networks both outside the U.S. and within. No software update is needed; no special unlocking is required. So what about the iPhone 4S?

As I covered in my previous column, the iPhone 4S from Verizon is capable of roaming outside the U.S., if Verizon unlocks it. I've even had an iPhone 4S unlocked and tried this. But if you try to roam within the U.S., say by inserting an AT&T SIM card into the phone, it won't work. Roaming within the U.S. remains blocked.

If you can use your iPhone 5 from Verizon with AT&T without hassle, without blocking, without even having to ask, certainly the iPhone 4S phones out there should be treated the same. Similarly, the Samsung S3 shouldn't be blocked, either.

Verizon's answer? Stay tuned. The company is still checking on it.