I'm a firm believer in not overpaying for a quality smartphone experience. My favorite phone of 2020 wasn't the Galaxy S20 or the OnePlus 8 Pro, it was the Pixel 4a. After years of the best cheap Android phones being phones that were just "good enough", the last two years have given us budget phones that look, feel and perform far better than expected, and the bar has been similarly raised for the mid-range phones like the OnePlus Nord, the Galaxy S20 FE, and the Pixel 4a 5G.
Last year's Galaxy A51 5G brought us power that the 4G versions of the A51 lacked and gave us bonafide 5G options without having to shell out flagship money. That made its sequel, the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G, one of the most anticipated phones of the year from a normal consumer standpoint, and Samsung has delivered. While there are places where the strings of its $500 price tag shine through, the Galaxy A52 5G is a great phone for the everyday user.
At a glance
Samsung Galaxy A52 5G
Bottom line: Samsung continues to offer up a compelling mid-range phone with a near-flagship experience in the Galaxy A52 5G. With a large 120Hz screen, 4500mAh battery that will last all day even with heavy use, it's the 5G phone under $500 to beat.
- Vivid 120Hz screen
- All-day battery life
- Decent performance
- Quad-camera setup with a good primary sensor
- Good value for a 5G phone
- Screen is dim outdoors
- Teeny bit of lag
- 5G is only sub6
Samsung Galaxy A52 5G Price and availability
Samsung announced the Galaxy A52 5G in March 2021 and it launched in the United States on April 9 with compatibility for AT&T, Metro by T-Mobile, T-Mobile, and US Cellular. The phone is available from these carriers as well as unlocked through Samsung, Amazon, Best Buy, and other major retailers for $500, though AT&T already has it down to $5 a month for 30 months (or $150), and I fully expect similar deals as the summer wears on. In the United States, the Galaxy A52 5G is sold with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.
While North America only gets the Awesome Black colorway, the phone also comes in Awesome Blue, Awesome Violet, and Awesome White in Europe, where the phone starts at £395 in the United Kingdom and starts at 449€ in most of Europe. Models in Europe are mostly sold with 6GB of RAM, with either 128GB or 256GB of internal storage depending on the individual market.
Samsung Galaxy A52 5G Improving on success
The Galaxy A51 was one of the best-selling phones in 2020 and our Galaxy A52 review called it the best budget phone for most people, and the 5G version seeks to claim the same mantle for the mid-range between budget and "value flagship" that's revitalized at $500-$700 in the last year. For the most part, Samsung nails it with much of the same style and solid build as the 4G version of the A52, there are only three differences between the two phones on a hardware level: the 6.5-inch 2400x1080 Super AMOLED screen has a 120Hz refresh rate instead of 90Hz, the chipset powering it is the Snapdragon 750G instead of the 720G, and it supports sub-6 5G.
|Category||Galaxy A52 5G|
|Operating system||Android 11
One UI 3.1
|Display||6.5-inch 120Hz Super AMOLED
Gorilla Glass 5
|Chipset||Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G
2 x 2.20GHz Cortex A77
6 x 1.80GHz Cortex A55
|Rear camera 1||64MP, f/1.8
4K at 30fps
|Rear camera 2||12MP, f/2.2
|Rear camera 3||5MP, f/2.4
|Rear camera 4||5MP, f/2.4
|Front camera||32MP, f/2.2
4K at 30fps
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 5.0
N2, N5, N66
25W wired charging
|Security||In-display fingerprint (optical)|
|Dimensions||159.9 x 75.1 x 8.4mm
That 120Hz display looks crisp and vivid most of the time — it gets blown out in full sunlight, but we'll get to that a little later — and even with 120Hz turned on by default, that screen won't guzzle your battery the way you'd expect. In fact, even with 5G turned on, 120Hz on and being at full-brightness for half the day, I still got through a full day with the only top-offs being during my 20-minutes drives with Android Auto.
Sitting under that 1080p screen is an optical fingerprint sensor, which brings good and bad news. Bad news: it'll light your finger up like E.T. every time you unlock the phone. Good news: this makes it easy to make sure you're actually hitting the sensor. It's funny, but I actually like the fingerprint sensor on here more than the S21's ultrasonic sensor because it's easier to train yourself to hit that spot and easier to tell when you got a bad read because you missed the edge.
If you get battery anxiety, the A52 5G will put those fears to bed. That 4500mAh battery lasted the full day and, in fact, I had to work to get it close to empty by the end of the day on my weekend even after five hours of Disney Emoji Blitz and Microsoft Solitaire Collection.
Part of this is due to the efficiency of the Snapdragon 750G, while also offering 5G connectivity through the integrated X52 5G modem and a 20% performance boost over the 730G. The 750G does great during light and medium use, with only the lightest hints of lag when rapidly app-switching or during more intensive gaming sessions.
Connectivity has mostly been great, considering that the A52 5G only supports sub-6 5G bands. I was able to pick up a 5G signal about half the time during my testing, and while speeds weren't much faster than LTE, 5G is more efficient and should hopefully allow you to get and keep a more consistent signal in congested areas.
The headphone jack, USB-C port, and speaker sit across the bottom of the phone while the SIM/microSD tray sits up top. The buttons on the right side of the screen sit on a glossy metal frame, although I'm not a fan of the plastic ring that sits between the metal frame and the front edge of the display, I'm not sure if I just managed to get one with a tiny bit of extra glue around there or what, but it feels dirty whenever I run my finger over it right by the buttons.
The Galaxy A52 comes in four colors, but the Awesome Black backplate America gets is mostly matte. It'll start picking up oils and smudges within hours, so do yourself a favor and grab the best Galaxy A52 case you can; you're also going to want the extra grip because this little beauty will slide around. It slid out of my pocket when I went to use the bathroom, leaving me with a nice impact on the top corner of the phone, but thankfully no damage to the screen.
The camera module rises up in the top left corner of that matte backplate just as it did on the S20 series and on the A51, but we've got the bigger triple-camera setup similar to Samsung's other 2021 offerings. The cameras held up quite well next to the Galaxy S21 and Pixel 4a during daytime conditions, but the A52 didn't hold up quite as well at night. The cameras are fine for social media and for selfies, but shutterbugs will likely either want the Pixel 4a 5G or need to upgrade to the S21, especially given that it took twice as long for photos to process on the A52 5G compared to the Galaxy S21.
On the software front, this is the same One UI 3.1 that's on the Galaxy S21 series and has come to last year's A51, S20, and Note 20 series already. It's easy to get things up and running — especially with Smart Switch to do the heavy lifting for you, and the only software complaint I have with this phone is that it doesn't come with double-tap to wake turned on by default. You'll want to head into Settings > Advanced features > Motions and gestures > and turn on all the gestures that aren't already enabled.
Another software victory for the Galaxy A52 5G: this phone is promised four years of updates and will be getting monthly security updates, which means if you value security, the Galaxy A52 5G is one of your best non-flagship options, as OnePlus's phones lag behind on updates like Motorola.
Samsung Galaxy A52 5G Compromises, compromises
Look, to get a 5G phone sold down to $500 with this high-quality build and internals requires some compromises. The Snapdragon 750G is mostly a solid chip that performs well in whatever primary app is on-screen, but you'll notice an extra second or two when switching between apps. I'm not sure how much of this is due to the overly-aggressive closing of background apps on One UI 3.1 and how much is due to the processor — with 6GB of RAM, I know memory is not the problem — but it's here and unless you're an app-switching fiend like me, it's probably fine.
This screen is made for the great indoors (like me).
What's less fine is how quickly this screen gets blown out outdoors. I mean, my screen standards are pretty low, but less than an hour outside in the Florida sunshine shocked me with how washed it looked, especially compared to my Pixel 4a, a display that itself doesn't get all that bright. I'm a "dark mode everything all the time" girl, and I had to disable it just to try and read the screen while walking around EPCOT. Inside, in full shade, or around sunset, the screen looks nice and vibrant, but if you spend a great amount of time outdoors, you'll want to look elsewhere.
The other letdown here is that 5G compatibility is limited to sub-6. Granted, I wasn't expecting there to be UWB (ultra-wideband) support here considering even the Galaxy S21 didn't get it, but mmWave (millimeter wave) would have been very nice to see.
This is LTE speeds in a newer, efficient wrapper.
My 5G reception on the Galaxy A52 5G was somewhat patchy: I got 5G with LTE-grade speeds at my apartment, and I bounced between 5G and 4G during my forays into Orlando and Walt Disney World. I'd see 5G in Tomorrowland but only 4G in Frontierland and Fantasyland, which seemed oddly fitting. If you're wanting a 5G phone because you've been lured in by the promise of ultra-fast mobile internet, you'll need a phone with mmWave and more robust mid-band support, and that sadly rules the A52 out.
Oh, and I'd be remiss if I didn't say it one more time: the Galaxy A52 5G comes in four colors, but the United States only gets boring and totally Not-Awesome Black. I know more colors means more SKUs and more SKUs mean more money, but c'mon, Samsung, at least give us that perfect powder blue.
Samsung Galaxy A52 5G Competition
The selection of mid-range 5G phones has bloomed in the last year, and the closest competitor for the A52 5G is the $500 Pixel 4a 5G, which also only supports sub-6 unless you're paying an extra $100 for the Verizon version. That said, the Pixel 4a 5G has 10 5G bands compared to the handful on the Galaxy A52 5G, but the Pixel 4a 5G's 6.2-inch screen is only 60Hz compared to 120Hz on the A52 5G.
If you're willing to go up $200, the Galaxy S21 is a better value at $700 with a substantially more powerful processor, mmWave support, and better cameras. The same goes for the Galaxy S20 FE, which is $600 right now and I'm expecting to drop to $550 around Prime Day the same way it did around Black Friday 2020.
If even $500 is stretching it, consider the $300 OnePlus Nord N10 5G, the screen is only 90Hz rather than 120Hz and the cameras aren't quite as good, but they're adequate for social media pictures and it'll give you the same sub-6 5G experience.
Samsung Galaxy A52 5G Should you buy it?
You should buy this if ...
- You need a phone that'll last all day
- You want a solid phone without breaking the bank
- You want consistent security updates
- You want to try 5G or live in a congested area
You should not buy this if ...
- You're looking for mmWave
- You spend lots of time outdoors
It's harder and harder to be seduced by flagship phones when mid-rangers like the Samsung Galaxy A52 are out here nailing the essentials of the Android smartphone experience without making you pay extra for the frailty of premium materials or gimmicky bonus features. This is a no-nonsense smartphone for the no-nonsense crowd that wants to walk into a carrier store and walk out with money left in their pocket. AT&T offering this phone at $150 is too good to ignore unless you just absolutely have to have mmWave's high speeds or the best Android camera on the planet.
The value proposition here is undeniable: you get a satisfactory phone for the everyday user, enough power to play games when you're stuck in a waiting room, and it's got the sub-6 5G that'll let you get the widest coverage while not sucking down battery the way mmWave does. The cameras aren't quite as good as the Galaxy S21 at night, but during the day they do pretty well, and so long as you're not going to be outside in the sun with it every single afternoon, that 120Hz screen is probably bright enough for you to read clearly.
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