If a $100 low-cost phone is a fast food dollar menu and a $1,000 flagship is a steakhouse dinner, the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G sits comfortably halfway between the two of caffeine, a laid-back all-day offering of surprisingly delicious food.
good. More importantly, it’s good where it matters. Of course, you have to order food at the counter and replenish your own water, but the brunch is fantastic and the price is reasonable, so it’s well worth it.
The A52 5G is the highest spec of the budget A-series Galaxy phones to be seen in the U.S. this year, offering all the basics for a $499 price tag along with some nice extra features. The 6.5-inch screen offers a fast 120Hz refresh rate, which is rare at this price point. The main camera includes optical image stabilization, which was missed when using the more expensive OnePlus 9. The A52 5G is rated IP67 waterproof for even more peace of mind. And hey, there’s still a headphone jack! In this economy!
However, this is not a flagship product and I had to cut costs somewhere. The frame and back panel of the device are plastic, and I like the matte finish on the back, but there are certain hollows that don’t feel very reassuring if you tap them. Also, there is no telephoto to complement the wide-angle and ultra-wide cameras, all you need is a digital zoom and depth sensor and a macro camera of questionable usability.
But here’s what’s important. Samsung currently has the A52 5G on its list of monthly OS updates, and it says it will provide major Android OS updates for three years and security support for at least four years. This will be a great help to get the most out of your investment in this phone, and it will help you take advantage of the headline feature. 5G — Includes hardware-level support for Sub-6 GHz, specifically C-band frequency carriers. Expected to begin use in 2022.
It’s becoming more and more common to see 5G available in mid-range and low-end phones, but in this country it will take a few more years for 5G networks to truly be good. With healthy device support over the next few years, it’s likely that the A52 5G will actually last long enough to reach the 5G promised land.
Samsung Galaxy A52 5G performance and screen
Like last year’s model, the screen is where the A52 5G (and Samsung in general) really stands out. This is a rich, bright and generally beautiful 6.5 inch 1080p OLED panel. It also offers all of the velvety softness that comes with a 120Hz refresh rate. Swipe between home screens, open apps, scroll through Twitter, all of which feels nicer with a fast refresh rate.
Even taking into account the extra power required for the 120Hz screen, the A52 5G’s 4,500mAh battery continued to last for the next day of use. I was able to finish the two days when I forgot to charge overnight, accepted the confusion, and decided to scour the remaining filling. This was a light to medium use, and by the end of Day 2 my double digit battery percentage went down, but my gamble worked.
One feature that continues to be defeated by the A52 5G is the in-display optical fingerprint sensor. I’ve been disciplined over the phone several times for not leaving my finger on the sensor long enough, and almost always requires at least two attempts to register. Its hit rate is significantly reduced outside in bright light.
These issues aren’t specific to this device, you can lock or unlock your phone using facial recognition or a plain old PIN (which is less secure). But expensive phones like the OnePlus 9 and Samsung’s own S21 have better display fingerprint readers, so it’s a compromise to be aware of.
The Galaxy A52 5G comes with Android 11. The less good news is that as we saw on S21 devices earlier this year, we’ve put a lot of unwanted apps, ads, and general confusion about Samsung’s recent OS into the UI. I see enough ads all day long. And I don’t appreciate seeing one more when checking the weather in the weather app on my phone.
If there’s a positive way to look at this situation, it’s to feel more forgiving on a low-budget phone than its flagship product, which costs over $1,000. But I’d rather not have any advertising. Buying a similarly priced Pixel 4A 5G gives up many other features of the A52 5G, but gives you an ad-free experience.
Samsung Galaxy A52 5G Camera
The A52 5G includes three rear cameras and a 5 megapixel depth sensor. OIS, 12 megapixel ultra-wide angle, seemingly obligatory 5 megapixel macro camera, you can get a 64 megapixel standard wide. There is also a front 32 megapixel selfie camera.
The 64 megapixel main camera produces a bright 16 megapixel image with very saturated colors you would expect from a Samsung phone in standard photo mode. Sometimes the appearance is pleasant, but often it has a slight effect on my tastes. The good news is that this sensor can capture a lot of finer details in good lighting and works well in dark or very low lighting conditions.
I’m facing night mode against the Google Pixel 4A, which is still a low-light champion in the mid-range class. In the night mode shot of the A52 5G, more noise is noticeable and the details look like watercolors, but the 4A hangs on the title, while the A52 5G is quite lagging behind.
The Pixel 4A is still a better camera even in good lighting, but the difference is more subjective here. The 4A goes for a more subdued color rendering, and the image of the A52 5G lacks a bit of contrast compared to the comparison.
So the A52 5G can’t beat 4A’s old imaging technology, but it can say more about pixels than anything else. Apart from that, the A52 5G offers good all-round camera performance. Images that are ultra-wide sometimes have slightly cooler shades, but are generally good. The selfie camera offers two zoom settings: a standard wide-angle view with slightly cropped and a slightly wider angle. The difference in “focal length” between the two is so small that it is rarely ridiculous.
In its default settings, the selfie camera softens and brightens a significant amount of the face. I don’t think it doesn’t cross the line into the hamcam area, but the words “maybe AI maybe, maybe Maybelline” seem smooth.
If you want to use a full hamcam, there is a new mod labeled “Fun” in the camera app with AR face filter pulled from Snapchat. There are different choices every day and you don’t need a Snapchat account to use or share.
I’m tempted to ignore them as “for youth”, but maybe this is for older people like me who don’t want to join other social platforms if I can avoid it. Thank you very much. Finally I turn my face into a piece of broccoli so I can share it with the world without having to log into Snapchat. Three years have passed since all of the children have moved to another place. It’s there anyway, it works, and you can actually turn your face into broccoli.
There are a lot of things that the Galaxy A52 5G is right for. Perhaps the most important feature is the one that sounds a lot less interesting than the fancy headline specs. This is a security update for at least the next few years. At $500, this is the best in the budget market, but it would be easier to swallow a few hundred more dollars if you knew you could get a few more years from your investment.
Samsung has invested in hardware in all the right places. The 120Hz screen provides an improved user experience, good battery life, strong camera performance, and a healthy processor/chipset combination handles everyday tasks well.
Something I didn’t like-cluttered software, tricky fingerprint sensors, a tendency to over-saturate in photos-feels more forgiving when the phone gets things right that it can’t negotiate. The Pixel 4A 5G is probably the device’s closest competitor and outperforms the A52 5G in camera quality and neat UI, but it’s a smaller device that doesn’t have a nice fast refresh rate screen. Depending on what you think about these things, 4A 5G might be a better choice.
Anyway, the A52 5G is a good mid-range phone today. But equally important, it will be a good phone a few years from now. With sturdy hardware and a software support system to back it up, this is an expensive budget phone that deserves a little extra budget.
Photo of Allison Johnson / The Verge