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Samsung Galaxy A52 5G: Can just ‘good’ be good enough?

Image Credit: Chris Velazco/Engadget

Ultimately, none of this would matter if the A52 ran like a dog, but Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 750G chipset does a respectable job keeping everything running at a solid clip. That said, I suspect the 6GB of RAM Samsung went with here holds things back a bit. Jumping between apps and minimizing YouTube videos is sometimes interrupted by noticeable lag. On the whole, though, the A52 has been more than competent at keeping up with my frenzied Slacking and prolonged periods of playing Lichtspeer poorly.

With that in mind, Samsung’s software continues to be a source of confusion. I don’t mean that One UI is difficult to wrap your head around — it isn’t. Really, it’s the little things that continue to feel unpleasant and weird. No one wants ads in their stock weather app, for instance, but Samsung shoves them in there anyway. And while using the A52’s big screen to its fullest all but demands gesture navigation, it isn’t on by default — you’ll have to jump into the phone’s settings to switch away from Samsung’s classic (and arguably dated) three-button navigation scheme.

Gallery: Samsung Galaxy A52 5G hands-on photos | 10 Photos


Normally, this is where I’d moan about Samsung’s lackluster long-term software support, but at least that is changing. The company confirmed earlier this month that, like its portfolio of premium phones, the A52 5G will get three years of full Android updates — that means this Android 11 phone should get the Android 14 update. Well, eventually anyway. (Compared to other smartphone makers, Samsung is still pretty slow at producing those updates and getting them certified and distributed.)

Now, because I’ve only had the A52 for a few days, there are some things I haven’t been able to test as thoroughly as I’d like. For one, the phone’s 4,500mAh battery has been more than enough to get through full working days — even with the screen’s refresh rate set to its full 120Hz — but I’m waiting to get a better sense of how far I can push the phone before it conks out. And if I’m honest, testing 5G in the Bay Area hasn’t been great either. This is a purely sub-6 5G device, which isn’t unusual for phones in this price range, but more than a few times I struggled to find a 5G signal outside San Francisco proper.


Ultimately, how impressive the A52 5G really is kind of depends on what you’re comparing it against. Apple’s answer to these kinds of high-powered, low-cost Android phones is the 2020 iPhone SE, which pairs a design straight out of 2016 with one of the company’s most powerful mobile chipsets, the A13 Bionic. What the iPhone SE lacks in style it makes up for with nearly flagship-grade performance that the A52 5G simply can’t match. Then again, it’s hard to argue with Samsung’s big, excellent screen and the bevy of cameras around back. It’s a very flexible package for the price, and worthy of serious consideration if you’re of the Android persuasion.

And of course, there’s our favorite inexpensive Android phone of the moment, Google’s $350 Pixel 4a. It too is quite a bit smaller than the A52 5G, but its pair of rear cameras still shines thanks to Google’s well-honed computational photography chops. If it were me, I’d personally stick with a Pixel because of its remarkably clean software, but there’s still a lot to like in Samsung’s maximal approach to its One UI interface.

Samsung

So, based on these first impressions, would I actually buy an A52 5G? Honestly, probably not — and that’s all because of Samsung. I really enjoyed last year’s S20 Fan Edition, with its high-powered Snapdragon 865 chipset and a camera setup copied almost directly from the rest of the S20 lineup. The A52 would be a whole lot more tantalizing if deals on that higher-performance device were hard to come by, but they’re not. As I write this, the comparable unlocked S20 FE sells for just $100 more than the A52 on Amazon, and you could score even more significant savings if you had an old phone you don’t mind trading in. Like I mentioned much earlier, it’s worth buying the best phone you can comfortably afford, and in this case the S20 FE’s extra performance is almost certainly worth the splurge.

All told, the A52 is one of Samsung’s strongest mid-range options to date, and is certainly worthy of your attention if you still shudder at the idea of dropping four figures on a phone. If you’re fairly sure this phone is going to be your next purchase, just remember that time is your friend — the A52 is a solid value buy now, but that deal will only get sweeter over time.

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