Samsung’s Galaxy A52 5G has a lot to live up to. Not only is it the successor to last year’s top-selling Android phone, but it’s also the star of Samsung’s new mid-range A-Series (the slightly more premium Galaxy A72 isn’t coming to the U.S). With people holding onto their phones for longer, there’s a good chance a new handset purchased today won’t get replaced for another three or four years. But even with all the pressure, the Galaxy A52 5G still manages to impress, offering a great mix of specs and features for a great price with only a few minor quirks and oddities.
The Galaxy A52 combines a mix of premium components with a sturdy (though not terribly exciting) design, and even a few components you don’t even get on Samsung’s more expensive Galaxy S devices. Built around a 6.5-inch 90Hz AMOLED display with a 2400 x 1080 resolution, the A52 offers a large display with rich colors and strong brightness upwards of 750 nits. It’s a great display for a phone in this price range, bridging the gap between the 120Hz OLED panels on Samsung’s premium Galaxy S handsets and the less colorful and cheaper LCD panels you typically see on mid-range devices.
From there, Samsung also includes a 32-MP hole-punch selfie camera in the A52's display, along with an in-screen fingerprint reader. It’s important to note that the A52 features an optical fingerprint reader instead of the more sophisticated ultrasonic sensors found on the A52's more expensive siblings. At first, I felt like the A52's sensor was a bit finicky and not quite as fast as I’d hoped, but the more I used the phone, I found that while the A52 seems to be more sensitive to oil and gunk on your fingers, in normal use, it’s still quite speedy and reliable.
The A52 also features your standard set of buttons, including a volume rocker and lock button on the right side. But even more importantly, unlike its pricier siblings, the A52 still features a microSD card slot for expandable storage and a dedicated headphone jack, in case the A52's otherwise quite strong stereo speakers aren’t cutting it. So even though I wish Samsung hadn’t axed these components on its premium phones, I’m really happy to see them alive and well on this year’s A-series handsets.
Finally, rounding out the A52's design, Samsung includes an IP67 rating for dust and water resistance (down to three feet for 30 minutes). My only gripe is that I wish Samsung had added just one more thing to provide some visual appeal to an otherwise plain device. In the U.S., the A52 only comes in black, missing out on the flashy colors seen on other Samsung phones, leaving you with one of Samsung’s “glasstic” (aka polycarbonate plastic) in back, plastic that’s been painted to look like metal around its sides, and Gorilla Glass 5 in front.
Sporting a Snapdragon 720G processor, 6GB of RAM, and 128GB of base storage, the A52 is well equipped for almost anything you can throw at it. In benchmarks, it performed about the same as its biggest rival—the Pixel 4a 5G—on a number of tests, including Geekbench 5, 3DMark, and others. The only area where it might fall a bit short is gaming, because while I didn’t notice any lag in more casual games like Gunbound, more resource-intensive titles like PUBG or Call of Duty Mobile can stress out the A52 a bit, especially if you enable some of their optional graphics settings. A little extra RAM may have helped the A52 overcome stuff like this, but it’s not essential.
However, while the A52 does support sub-6Ghz 5G, it doesn’t support mmWave 5G regardless of which carrier or retailer you get it from. To me this is a small knock against the A52, because it means it might not age as well as phones that support both sub-6Ghz and mmWave 5G a year or two down the road. That means if you want better 5G compatibility, you either have to downgrade to the Galaxy A42, or upgrade to the S20 FE or another more premium device like the S21 or OnePlus 9.
Compared to previous generations, the A52's biggest improvement might be the quality of its photos, because even though it has a very similar set of cameras (64-MP main, 12-MP ultrawide, 5-MP macro, 5-MP depth), Samsung’s image processing and main camera sensor have gotten noticeably better. Now in most conditions, the A52 can keep pace with the overall image quality you get from a Pixel 4a 5G, while offering a wider range of lenses and features to choose from.
In a shot of a mural in NYC, aside from having a slightly brighter exposure resulting in colors that look just a bit less saturated, the A52's shot wasn’t far off from what I got from a Pixel 5 (which features the same main cam as the Pixel 4a 5G). And when I snapped a shot of a sunny cobblestone street, the A52 did even better, capturing great dynamic range and details that might be even sharper than what I got from the Pixel 5.
The main area where the A52 falls a bit short is in very low-light environments, where Samsung’s Night Mode just isn’t quite as powerful as Google’s Night Sight mode. For example, in a shootout between the A52 and Pixel 5 at a skatepark at night, Pixel 5 produced a more well-exposed and colorful image without the over-sharpened artifacts I got from the A52's pic. Also, while neither the A52 nor the Pixel 5 sports a true zoom cam, I found that Google’s Super Res zoom often captured digital zoom shots that were slightly sharper and more detailed than shots from the A52. In short, while it can’t take the crown from Google, the A52's camera can still hang with the best phone cameras in its price range.
Powered by a 4,500 mAh battery, the Galaxy A52 lasted just shy of 13 hours on our battery test (12:53 to be exact), which is almost half an hour better than current smartphone average (12:25) and the standard Galaxy S21 (12:36). That ain’t bad, though I should note that the Pixel 4a 5G fared even better on the same test with a time of 13:57.
However, even though the A52's battery life isn’t quite as good as the Pixel 4a 5G’s, my bigger gripe is its relatively slow charging speeds. That’s because while the A52 can technically handle up to 25-watt wired charging, Samsung only includes a 15-watt power brick in the box, which is fine, but not what I’d call quick. And because the A52 doesn’t have support for wireless charging, this means you may have to be a little more proactive about keeping your phone topped up.
The A52's main rival is the Pixel 4a 5G, which has the same $500 price tag but takes a very different approach when it comes to making a good mid-range phone. Google puts a premium on simplicity, opting to concentrate on a handful of core features like image quality, battery life, and software while the rest of the phone sports a streamlined design with just two rear cameras, no official rating for water resistance, and no microSD card slot. That said, on some carriers (most notably Verizon), the Pixel 4a 5G does support both sub-6GHz and mmWave 5G.
Meanwhile, the Galaxy A52 5G is more of a maximalist’s take on a mid-range phone, with Samsung throwing a lot of everything into the phone’s kit The A52 has a bigger 6.5-inch display with a 90Hz refresh rate (the Pixel 4a 5G is capped at 60Hz), four rear cams, a micro SD card slot, better speakers, an in-screen fingerprint sensor, and more. And with Samsung’s recent commitment to provide three years of OS and monthly security updates for the phone, the A52 should have relatively strong post-purchase software support.
Samsung really stuffed the A52 with almost everything you could want on a $500 phone, with small missing items being a 2x optical zoom cam, support for wireless charging, and full mmWave 5G connectivity. But since optical zooms and wireless charging aren’t things you get from a Pixel 4a 5G either, it’s hard to harp on Samsung too much for that.
Honestly, the A52's biggest weakness may be its lack of personality, because you don’t get any other color options to choose from, and while its design is quite solid, it doesn’t have a feature or trait that gives it a real wow factor. But when it comes to everything else, Samsung has you covered. The A52 has a big screen with beautiful OLED colors, good battery life, and even expandable storage and a headphone jack. For $500, the A52 isn’t just a good deal, it’s probably the best value in mid-range phones right now.