Once upon a time, you had to pay flagship prices in hopes of getting a great 5G phone that was worth using. But both Google and Samsung now offer impressively priced phones with sub6 support and long-term update support at the $500 price point, though you won't have to pay nearly that much for the A52 in the coming months when buying the phone from carriers. Here's why the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G will trounce the Google Pixel 4a 5G's value in short order, and why you might still want to pay the full $500 for the Pixel instead.
Samsung Galaxy A52 5G vs. Google Pixel 4a 5G: Racing for the middle
This is a comparison that's going to have to be about the little things because these phones have an awful lot in common: they're both mid-range phones with adequate processors and storage. Both have sub6 5G coverage with a little mid-band, but if you want mmWave, you'll have to pay $600 for the Verizon version of the Pixel 4a 5G. Both of these phones still have headphone jacks, but the Pixel 4a 5G misses on microSD support. The Samsung Galaxy A52 5G uses a slightly newer 750G processor, but the 765G inside the Pixel 4a 5G is a smidgen more powerful. Both should give you consistent performance, but the A52 slows up a little more quickly when you're bouncing between multiple apps.
Screens are a larger point of distinction here, but not in the way you'd necessarily think: the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G has a larger 6.5-inch screen that can display at 120Hz as opposed to the older, slower 60Hz on the Pixel 4a 5G, but the Galaxy A52's screen washes out more quickly outdoors than the Pixel 4a 5G. I've tried two Galaxy A52 5G units, and the Pixel 4a was noticeably easier to read outdoors, especially in full sun. Once you're closer to nightfall or have significant cloud cover, the A52 5G screen will look more vibrant, but if you spend tons of time outdoors, you'll probably want to go with the Pixel. The A52's Gorilla Glass 5 is also more shatter-resistant, but the Pixel 4a 5G's Gorilla Glass 3 is more scratch-resistant, so pick your poison there.
The fingerprint under the A52's screen is optical, not ultrasonic, so whenever you press it, your finger is going to light up like E.T. or blind you if you missed the sensor. The Pixel 4a 5G, on the other hand, still uses the old-fashioned rear fingerprint sensor, which I still love for the swipe-down gesture to open notifications, but that does mean that you have to pick the phone up off the table to unlock it.
|Category||Samsung Galaxy A52 5G||Google Pixel 4a 5G|
|Operating system||Android 11
One UI 3.1
|Display||6.5-inch 120Hz Super AMOLED
Gorilla Glass 5
|6.2-inch 60Hz OLED
HDR, Gorilla Glass 3
|Chipset||Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G
2 x 2.20GHz Cortex A77
6 x 1.80GHz Cortex A55
1 x 2.4GHz A76
1 x 2.2GHz A76
6 x 1.8GHz A55
|Rear camera 1||64MP, f/1.8
4K at 30fps
|12.2MP, f/1.7, OIS
4K at 60fps
|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
|Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 5.0
N1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20, 28, 38, 40, 41, 66, 78
N1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 12, 28, 41, 66, 71, 77, 78
n260/261 (Verizon model)
25W wired charging
18W wired charging
|Security||In-display fingerprint (optical)||Rear fingerprint|
I want to clear up three things in this spec table: if you're in Europe, you'll have access to all four colors, and some countries get 256GB of storage. Here in the United States, though, you get Awesome Black and 128GB, and that's it. Lastly, while both phones have plenty of sub6 bands listed, not all Galaxy A52 5G versions actually have them. Because the A52 is a phone Samsung is selling through several carriers — both in the U.S. and abroad — Samsung tailors the 5G bands to suit the carrier it's on, so only the unlocked model will have all bands. That's the trade-off you take for buying the phone at a discount from your carrier — and with the right trade-off, that seems worth it.
Google has better cameras and fundamentals, but Samsung offers more polished features and hardware.
Samsung does add some features here that Google omitted from the Pixel 4a 5G: the Galaxy A52 5G gets IP67 water resistance, so you don't have to worry about it if it slips into the kitchen sink while you're doing dishes. You can use microSD cards to expand the storage if you're the kind of person who carries every song and movie you've ever bought on your phone at all times. Both phones lack wireless charging, to my eternal disappointment. Still, Samsung at least has 25W wired charging when using Samsung's fast chargers instead of just having the standard 18W Power Delivery profile that the Pixel's used since 2016.
Cameras also seem like it's stacked in Samsung's favor, but numbers on a spec sheet don't tell you the whole story, and the Pixel 4a 5G takes more consistent shots than the A52 5G in daylight, and the quality multiplies once the sun goes down. Lighting on selfies on the A52 5G was also much more uneven: sometimes it's great, and sometimes it just completely blacks out or blows out the background. You'll be able to get social media-worthy shots eventually, but it'll probably take twice as many shots as the Pixel.
Samsung Galaxy A52 5G vs. Google Pixel 4a 5G: Which one should you buy?
The biggest argument for buying the A52 5G isn't necessarily that it's that much better a phone than the Pixel 4a 5G — it's slightly better in most areas except for mmWave support, cameras, and the 765G's performance in the Pixel is a tiny bit more consistent than the 750G — it's that the A52 5G is a $500 phone that's being sold at much lower prices. Less than a month after launch AT&T already has the A52 5G down to $5 a month for $150 total if you buy on AT&T's installment plan, and I'm betting the A52 will be available for free with an upgrade or a new line in four months or less, or list for $200 off on Prime Day and Black Friday this year.
The Pixel 4a 5G, on the other hand, occasionally sees sales, but nothing nearly as drastic as the A52 because carriers aren't as heavily marketing the phone. The Pixel 4a 5G might see some discounts once the Pixel 5a 5G launches, but it's just as likely to sell out its remaining supply in the U.S. before the 5a's launch, given the shortage of Snapdragon chips and the 765G in particular.
Bring on the sales
Samsung Galaxy A52 5G
A great phone with huge carrier incentives.
Samsung made a pretty darn good phone with the A52 5G. I wish the screen was brighter and that there were more support for mid-band — and the lack of mmWave will be a letdown to Verizon customers — but if you're on T-Mobile, AT&T, or one of their MVNOs, this phone is going to see huge discounts that will make it too hard to pass up.
Google Pixel 4a 5G
How much do cameras matter to you?
Now that Samsung is offering four years of security patches and three years of platform updates, the Pixel 4a 5G has fewer software benefits to help it stand out. Thankfully, the camera experience still stands out enough to make this choice easy for shutterbugs, especially when dealing with lots of nighttime photography. There's also a version with mmWave support, but you'll have to pay extra.
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