Android Central Verdict
Bottom line: The Galaxy A52 brings exciting upgrades in all key areas. You get a gorgeous design with pastel hues, lag-free performance, responsive 90Hz display, IP67 water resistance, outstanding battery life, cameras that take great photos, and three guaranteed Android updates.
90Hz AMOLED display
Three guaranteed Android updates
IP67 dust and water resistance
Much better cameras
No 4K 60fps video recording
Lot of bloatware out of the box
Not as good value as rivals
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The Galaxy A52 has a lot to live up to. Its predecessors — the Galaxy A51, A50s, and the A50 — sold tens of millions of units around the world, with the A51 in particular becoming the best-selling Android phone of 2020. Samsung offers the best cheap Android phones with the Galaxy A lineup, and the A52 needs to do well for the company.
While the Galaxy A51 had a lot going for it, the phone was limited in its performance due to an outdated Exynos chipset. Thankfully, Samsung is fixing that with the Galaxy A52, switching from its Exynos chipsets to Qualcomm's Snapdragon 720G platform. The Galaxy A52 also gets a new design that looks very different to the A51, an upgraded 64MP camera at the back, and 25W fast charging.
But the biggest upgrade is at the front: the Galaxy A52 features an AMOLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate, with Samsung bringing the tech to its budget phones this year. In doing so, it is making the tech accessible to a mainstream audience for the first time.
Another standout addition is IP67 water resistance — it's standard on all variants of the Galaxy A52 and A72. This isn't the first time we're seeing water resistance in the Galaxy A series — the 2017 Galaxy A lineup and the Galaxy A8 2018 had IP68 rating — and it is great to see Samsung reintroduce this particular feature.
In this Galaxy A52 review, I'll talk about how all the new upgrades make a difference over its predecessor, and why you should consider the phone if you're looking to upgrade in 2021.
Samsung Galaxy A52: Price and availability
The Galaxy A52 was unveiled on March 17 alongside the Galaxy A72. The phone is now up for sale in India, set to go on sale soon in Europe, and is scheduled to make its way to the U.S. in April. The Galaxy A52 is sold in four color variants: Awesome Blue, Awesome Black, Awesome White, and Awesome Violet.
The Galaxy A52 is available in two configurations in India: a 6GB/128GB version that retails at ₹26,499 ($365), and an 8GB/128GB model that is available for ₹27,999 ($385). Samsung is incentivizing the launch by offering ₹2,000 ($30) off the asking price for HDFC Bank customers in India. The 6GB/128GB model is now on sale for €349 ($420) in most European countries.
Samsung is also selling a 5G-enabled version of the Galaxy A52 in the UK, EU, and other western markets, with the variant set to debut in the U.S. The Galaxy A52 5G is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 750G platform and has a 120Hz AMOLED display. The rest of the hardware is the same, and the phone is available for £399 ($550) in the UK and €430 ($510) in EU for the 6GB/128GB variant.
Samsung Galaxy A52: Design and display
Samsung likes to switch up the design of its Galaxy A phones with every new generation — we've seen that with the Galaxy A50, A50s, A51 — and that is now the case with the A52. This year, Samsung transitioned to a minimal design aesthetic that looks much better than its predecessors.
There are no flashy gradient effects anymore; instead, you get a clean design with pastel hues and a camera housing that's nearly identical to the Galaxy S21 series. The three main camera modules are arrayed vertically and have rings around them, with the fourth module sitting to the right above the LED flash unit.
The housing doesn't jut out as much as the S21 series, but there is an actual camera bump this time, unlike the Galaxy A32 — where the camera rings just protrude from the chassis. Like the Galaxy A32, the A52 eschews the curvier designs of its predecessors for a more rectangular chassis à la iPhone 12.
My favorite part is the matte finish. The Galaxy A52 has a polycarbonate back like its predecessors, but Samsung used a matte coating this time that makes it easier to hold and use the phone. The matte texture ensures the A52 stands out a bit more, and it prevents fingerprint smudges. The mid-frame itself is made out of metal, and it has a glossy finish.
Continuing with the design, the Galaxy A52 has the SIM card slot at the top, and you get a full-width slot that lets you house two SIM cards as well as a microSD slot. Of course, this is going to differ in global markets — particularly North America — where Samsung only offers single-SIM slots.
The power and volume buttons are located on the right, and at the bottom you'll find a 3.5mm jack to the left of the USB-C charging port. The primary speaker sits to the right, with the earpiece doubling as the secondary speaker.
Overall, the design of the Galaxy A52 is very elegant and differentiates it from its predecessors. The switch to a minimal aesthetic makes it look upmarket, and I like the pastel hues that Samsung is offering for this generation. The Awesome Blue in particular looks great, and the matte finish is a delight to use.
High refresh rate displays have been a mainstay on Xiaomi, Realme, and other budget phones from Chinese manufacturers for a while now, and Samsung is following suit with the 2021 Galaxy A series. That should be exciting news for customers in North America, because the A52 is one of very few budget phones in that region with a 90Hz AMOLED panel for under $500.
The Galaxy A52 features a 6.5-inch FHD+ (2400 x 1080) AMOLED display, and the 90Hz refresh rate gives it a significant advantage over last year's A51. The 90Hz panel makes day-to-day interactions much more smooth; you'll immediately see the difference in browsing, scrolling through social media, and just about everything else you do on the phone.
The regular 60Hz option is enabled out of the box, so you will have to go into the phone's settings to switch the display over to 90Hz. In terms of customization, you get two screen modes to choose from — Vivid and Natural — and you can adjust the white balance manually.
The screen itself is one of the best you'll find in this category, with excellent contrast levels, vibrant colors, and great viewing angles. It goes up to 800nits peak brightness in select use cases, and there aren't any issues viewing the screen even under harsh sunlight. The panel is protected by a layer of Corning's Gorilla Glass 5.
Other features include always-on display, and you can choose from various clock styles and set up a schedule to turn off the feature at night. You also get stereo speakers, and while both speakers are not identical — like the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max — you do get decent output and it makes a difference while gaming or streaming videos.
Overall, the display is one of the standout features on the Galaxy A52. Samsung is offering a high-quality AMOLED panel here, and the fact that it has 90Hz refresh means it is on par with other phones in this category.
Samsung Galaxy A52: Performance and battery
I did not like using the Galaxy A51 last year; the phone was slow out of the box, and the Exynos 9611 chipset just couldn't handle even mundane day-to-day tasks. Thankfully, Samsung has sorted out the performance issues with the Galaxy A52.
|Specs||Samsung Galaxy A52|
|Software||One UI 3.1 based on Android 11|
|Display||6.5-inch (2400x1080) 90Hz AMOLED|
|Chipset||2.30GHz Snapdragon 720G|
|Rear Camera 1||64MP ƒ/1.8 (primary)|
|Rear Camera 2||12MP ƒ/2.2 (wide-angle)|
|Rear Camera 3||5MP ƒ/2.4 (macro)|
|Rear Camera 4||5MP ƒ/2.4 (portrait)|
|Front Camera||32MP ƒ/2.2|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi ac, BT5.0, NFC|
|Battery||4500mAh | 25W|
|Colors||Awesome Blue, Awesome Black, Awesome White, Awesome Violet|
|Dimensions||159.9 x 75.1 x 8.4mm|
The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 720G, and it has two Cortex A76 cores that go up to 2.3GHz and six energy-efficient A55 cores at 1.8GHz. The Adreno 618 GPU is clocked at 750Hz, and it holds up just fine for all but the most visually-intensive games on Android.
The performance on offer with the Galaxy A52 is a refreshing change from its predecessor. There is no lag in day-to-day use, and the chipset has enough power to drive the 90Hz screen without causing any slowdowns. The phone does a decent job when it comes to gaming as well, and you can play demanding games at medium settings without running into too many issues.
As stated earlier, the Galaxy A52 comes with 6GB or 8GB of LPDDR4X RAM, and it will be available with 64/128/256GB of UFS 2.1 storage. Memory configurations will vary by region, but the fact that you get a generous amount of RAM even with the base model means there are zero issues with multitasking in daily use.
Another interesting addition on the Galaxy A52 is IP67 water resistance. It means that the phone is fully protected against dust ingress, and can be submerged in up to a meter of water for 30 minutes without any issues. The only difference between the A52 and the IP68-rated Galaxy S21 models is that the latter can be submerged beyond one meter. But for most use cases, the A52 should hold up just fine, and it is great to see Samsung bring back this particular feature to its budget phones.
Elsewhere, you get Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 5.0, and NFC. There are no problems with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connectivity, and the phone holds up just fine for calls. There's an in-screen fingerprint reader for authentication, but the module itself takes far too long to recognize your biometric data. You're better off switching to the software-based face unlock feature, but note that this mode isn't as secure as the in-screen sensor.
As for battery life, the Galaxy A52 has a 4500mAh battery with 25W fast charging. There is no wireless charging here, and you get a 15W charger in the box, so you will have to pick up a standalone charger to fully unlock 25W charging speeds. The Galaxy A52 doesn't last quite as long as its predecessors — that's down to the 90Hz panel — but you still get a full day's worth of use without fail.
Samsung Galaxy A52: Cameras
The Galaxy A52 has four cameras at the back: a 64MP primary lens joined by a 12MP wide-angle module, and a 5MP macro as well as 5MP portrait lenses. There's also a 32MP camera at the front, and other than the 64MP primary camera, the rest of the sensors are unchanged from last year's Galaxy A51.
The camera interface itself should be familiar if you've used a Samsung phone in the fast. You can easily access the shooting modes, add more modes to the ribbon by navigating to the More section, use toggles for flash, timer, and beautify effects, and change between the primary and wide-angle lenses.
Samsung made several tweaks to its camera algorithms for 2021, and some of these are being carried over to the Galaxy A series. Night mode now uses pixel binning to deliver more detailed shots, and there's also a pro video mode. There's no 4K at 60fps here — the phone didn't even have 1080p at 60fps until a software update added that particular feature — but the inclusion of a pro video mode gives you that much more control when shooting video with the device.
The Galaxy A52 takes better photos than its predecessor in just about every lighting condition. Daylight shots have plenty of detail and dynamic range, with saturated colors that look great on social media. The phone struggles in low-light scenarios, with the camera struggling to focus and a lot of visible noise in the shots, but the dedicated Night mode makes a difference here.
As the rest of the sensors are unchanged from last year, you don't really see much of a difference. The wide-angle lens isn't quite up to the mark — there's visible distortion and you miss out on detail around the edges — and the same goes for the fixed-focus macro lens. The portrait lens manages to deliver decent background separation for portrait shots, and the front camera is serviceable in daylight conditions.
To sum it up, the Galaxy A52 isn't the best camera you'll find in this category, but it is a far sight better than what the A51 managed last year.
Samsung Galaxy A52: Software
On the software side of things, the Galaxy A52 runs One UI 3.1 based on Android 11 out of the box. Samsung made a bold move last year where it promised three guaranteed Android updates to its phones — including the mid-range Galaxy A series — and the Galaxy A52 is on that list. In addition, Samsung will also deliver four years of security patches, outmatching even Google in this area.
One UI 3.1 doesn't offer a lot in the way of visual upgrades, but there are a few tweaks to the home screen, new dynamic backgrounds, Android 11's Conversations view and media controls in the settings tile, and new Bixby Routines.
While most manufacturers have switched to Google's dialer with Android 11, Samsung continues to offer its own phone dialer, and in One UI 3.1 you'll find added customization options. There's no shortage of features in One UI 3.1, and Samsung continues to lead the way in this particular area.
While it's great to see Samsung make huge strides on the software front, the Galaxy A52 is no better than its predecessors when it comes to bloatware. You'll find a lot of bloatware out of the box, and you're inundated with notifications to install more. You'll see an interstitial for IronSource's "recommendations" once you set up the phone, and you won't be able to head to the home screen unless you finish this process.
You'll need to unselect all the options in IronSource's list to ensure you don't end up with any errant apps on your phone. Once you get to the home screen, you're constantly bombarded by ads from the likes of Galaxy Store, My Galaxy, and other first-party apps. The issue with ads and bloatware isn't just limited to Samsung's budget phones — even the Galaxy S21 series isn't immune to this.
While Xiaomi and Realme also resort to ads on their devices, they do so on budget phones that cost under $300. Samsung, meanwhile, does it on phones that cost four times as much, and that's inexcusable. Samsung really needs to address this issue in2021, because it is getting to a point where the ads and bloatware are hindering what is an otherwise great software experience.
Samsung Galaxy A52: The competition
For this section, I'm going to break things down based on the region. In North America, the chief rival to the Galaxy A52 is the Pixel 4a. Google's mid-range Pixel continues to be a standout value, with the phone offering an OLED panel, reliable hardware, and incredible cameras. It doesn't quite deliver the same hardware package as the A52, but you get cleaner software and a more compact design. There's also the Pixel 5a to look forward to in the coming months.
The OnePlus Nord N10 5G is also a strong contender. The N10 5G has a 90Hz LCD panel and has robust internals backed by 5G connectivity, and the phone retails for $300. But the downside is the software update situation; the phone will get just one update — to Android 11 — making it a non-starter if you want regular updates.
In the UK, EU, and India, the regular OnePlus Nord is a viable alternative to the A52 — particularly given that the phone costs just ₹26,999 ($370) in India. The Nord has much better hardware, a 90Hz AMOLED panel, 30W fast charging, and a UI without any bloat. You're getting a few extras with the A52 — like IP67 water resistance, 3.5mm jack, microSD slot, and Samsung Pay — but in terms of day-to-day use, both devices are on an equal footing. You can also pick up the Xiaomi Mi 10T Lite (Mi 10i in India) or the Realme X7 (7 Pro in the UK).
Over in India, the Redmi Note 10 Pro Max is a standout choice in this particular category. It features a 120Hz AMOLED screen, Snapdragon 732G chipset, 108MP camera at the back, and a massive 5020mAh battery with 33W fast charging. At ₹21,999 ($300), it is much more affordable than the Galaxy A52. Sure, you miss out on IP67 and an additional Android updates, but when it comes to value, Xiaomi's latest budget phone is the one to beat.
Samsung Galaxy A52: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if ...
You want a 90Hz AMOLED display
The Galaxy A52 lowers the barrier to entry for 90Hz AMOLED panels in markets like North America. The high refresh rate display makes an immediate difference, and you'll love the responsiveness.
You need a phone that will get regular software updates
The Galaxy A52 runs Android 11 out of the box, and it will receive three guaranteed Android updates. Samsung will also deliver four years of security patches to the phone, so you have nothing to worry about in this particular area.
You want a water-resistant budget phone
The Galaxy A52 has an IP67 rating, making it resistant to dust and water. You don't find any other phone in this particular category that offers the same level of water resistance, so if you're interested in picking up a budget phone that you can use at the pool or in the tub, the A52 is the default choice.
You should not buy this if ...
You want a phone without bloatware
While the Galaxy A52 will get a lot of software updates, the phone has plenty of bloatware out of the box and annoying ads throughout the interface.
You're looking for the best value
The Galaxy A series doesn't necessarily deliver the best value, and there are alternatives that offer a similar hardware for less than the A52, particularly in countries like India and the UK.
The Galaxy A52 is one of the best budget phones that Samsung has released to date. The company fixed a lot of the performance issues by switching to the Snapdragon 720G platform, and the result is that the phone holds up much better than the A51 in day-to-day use. The AMOLED display is one of the best you'll find on a budget phone, and with 90Hz refresh rate, you will see a noticeable difference when scrolling through social media or browsing.
The 64MP camera takes much better photos than the 48MP shooter on the A51, and the design — with the pastel hues and the matte finish — makes the Galaxy A52 stand out. You also get excellent battery life, and the A52 will get more updates than any other Android phone in this category. Samsung hasn't left out any of the extras either; the Galaxy A52 has IP67 dust and water resistance, you get a 3.5mm jack, NFC, and Samsung Pay.
4 out of 5
The Galaxy A52 doesn't measure up to the OnePlus Nord in terms of performance or the Redmi Note 10 Pro when it comes to value, but it doesn't need to do these things; it just needs to outmatch its predecessor, and Samsung has managed to do just that. So if you're using an older Samsung phone or another budget phone and are looking to upgrade in 2021, the Galaxy A52 is the obvious choice.
Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.