Samsung Galaxy A52 Review: An exciting makeover riddled with unapologetic compromises
Samsung’s Galaxy A51 was the best-selling Android phone in 2020, with more than 23 million units shipped worldwide. Its success is proof that most users go by a brand’s reliability, good cameras on the back and the front, and average everything else over hyped-up specs from lesser-known brands. The new Samsung Galaxy A52 is set to fill those big shoes. Unlike the Galaxy A51, which mostly brought software improvements over the Galaxy A50 and the Galaxy A50s, the Galaxy A52 comes with major improvements to the hardware, including a new display, better cameras, faster charging, and a separate 5G variant for select markets.
Along with the improved hardware, Samsung also promises three incremental Android updates to the Galaxy A52, making it one of the few mid-range smartphones to get such extended software support. It competes with Google Pixel 4a and the OnePlus Nord, but does it stand up to be a viable option for another set of millions of users? While our initial impressions are good, we endeavor to answer that in this review of the Galaxy A52.
Before we begin, here is a quick look at the Samsung Galaxy A52’s specifications:
Samsung Galaxy A52 Specifications
Samsung Galaxy A52 specs. Click or tap o expand
|Specification||Samsung Galaxy A52 4G|
|Dimensions & Weight||
|RAM & Storage||
|Battery & Charging||
|Front Camera(s)||32MP f/2.2, FF|
|Audio||Stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos|
|Software||One UI 3.1 based on Android 11|
About this review: Samsung India sent me a 6GB + 128GB variant of the Galaxy A52 4G. This short review is after three days of usage. Samsung India did not have any inputs in this review.
Design and Build
The Samsung Galaxy A52 shares the same — or vastly similar — design blueprint as the Galaxy S21 Ultra. It deviates from the shiny plastic back and holographic designs on previous A series smartphones. In contrast, the Galaxy A52 features a plain plastic back with a non-glassy satin finish, and Samsung will be selling the Samsung Galaxy A52, Galaxy A52 5G, and the Galaxy A72 in this finish.
The official names for the color variants are Awesome Black, Awesome Blue, Awesome Violet, and Awesome White, but you can color me unimpressed. The back panel looks bland and feels flimsy; you can easily feel the body bend inwards. The surface attracts sweat smudges very easily, while the flat back makes the phone difficult to grip and easily slip out of sweaty palms. This entails buying and using a back case with the Galaxy A52 because — unlike previous smartphones — it does not come with a case in the box.
The camera bump is slightly thicker than the rest of the smartphone. While the back panel has been molded to wrap around the camera bump, shadows that fall around it make it look like a separate raised platform. Meanwhile, the side frame is also made of plastic and has a metallic surface finish in a muted tone of the same color, just like the previous generations. The frame easily attracts fingerprints too, and is yet another reason for you to buy a case as soon as you buy the smartphone.
Talking about ports and buttons, the placement on the Galaxy A52 is similar to other Samsung phones. The volume rocker and the power button are placed on the right side while the left is completely blank. The bottom features a 3.5mm headphone jack, the primary microphone, USB Type-C port, and the primary speaker. Meanwhile, the top features a secondary microphone for noise canceling beside a slot for the hybrid SIM tray. Meanwhile, the thin earpiece on the Galaxy A52 also serves as the secondary speaker in a stereo orientation.
Despite these shortcomings on the build materials, the Galaxy A52 is rated for IP67 water and dust resistance. This means the phone is safe against dust and can be immersed in up to 1m deep water for a maximum of 30 minutes. It is vital to note these conditions apply to freshwater bodies only and will not protect the smartphone against seawater or even water in swimming pools.
Like I mentioned above, although Samsung has attempted to replicate the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s design, the Galaxy A52 cannot be designated a premium-looking phone from any angle. Features such as a headphone jack, stereo speakers, and expandable storage are advantageous but not unique propositions at this price. The build quality of the Galaxy A52 can be unsettling for various users. Still, several features can obscure any feeling of regret about the design and convince you that the Galaxy A52 might actually be an excellent investment.
Reasons to love the Samsung Galaxy A52 (but not unconditionally)
The Samsung Galaxy A52 brings many new features over the Galaxy A51. Besides running the latest One UI 3.1 right out of the box, the Galaxy A52 also comes with a more robust processor, an improved Super AMOLED display, better cameras, and support for fast charging. Here is everything that you will love about the Samsung Galaxy A52:
Display and fingerprint scanner
The Galaxy A5x smartphones have had Super AMOLED displays since the very first device in the series. This trend continues with the Galaxy A52, which sports a 6.5-inch Full HD+ Super AMOLED display with a centered hole-punch for the selfie camera. The hole-punch is noticeably tiny, and you don’t see any dead spots or darkening around the cutout. Samsung claims the display can reach a peak brightness of up to 800nits.
Besides, the display supports HDR10+ and HLG for HDR content playback on YouTube — but will be limited to playing non-HDR content on OTT platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video (as it has not been certified by these platforms for HDR content yet). As expected from a Samsung Super AMOLED panel, this display is bright and offers rich contrast and colors. Since this is a mid-tier AMOLED display, the rainbow effect is inescapable. But other than that, the clarity and colors of the display are fairly appreciable.
With this launch, Samsung has moved to higher refresh rate displays on mid-range smartphones. The LTE variant of the Galaxy A52’s display comes with a 90Hz refresh rate, which means the display refreshes 1.5 times faster than a standard 60Hz display, as seen on the Galaxy A51 and other similarly priced Samsung devices. This implies you can experience smoother scrolling through the user interface and the majority of the apps.
Because of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G that powers the smartphone, you might experience stutters sometimes when there are too many background tasks running simultaneously. Still, more often than not, this is unlikely to impair your experience. However, unlike Samsung flagships which support dynamic refresh rate switching, the Galaxy A52’s display can either work at 90Hz or 60Hz based on the settings you choose.
The display also features an optical in-display fingerprint scanner similar to the previous generations. The fingerprint scanner feels faster and more accurate than the previous generations.
Overall, the display on the Galaxy A52 brings a notable upgrade over the previous phones in the series and makes the smartphone feel ready for at least the next couple of years. The other feature that prepares it for longevity is Samsung’s promise of four years worth of software updates.
One UI 3.1 with promised four years of updates
Although Samsung was once a laggard in terms of software upgrades, its delivery of updates has improved tremendously since the shift to One UI. Now, Samsung can be hailed as one of the leaders when it comes to timely delivery of software updates, and the Galaxy A52 is destined to benefit from this evolution. Samsung has promised at least three platform upgrades and four years of security updates for the Galaxy A52, Galaxy A52 5G, and the Galaxy A72. This means that the Galaxy A52, which comes preloaded with Android 11, will be updated to at least Android 14.
Talking about its current software, One UI 3.1 is one of the most feature-rich third-party skins available to Android users. It also gets a host of improvements and better integration with Google services than One UI 3.0. You can check out all the new features on One UI 3.1 vs. One UI 3.0 in our article on the same subject. In addition to the improvements, One UI also supports Google Discover feed directly in the Samsung Home launcher. Further, you get Google Messages as the default messaging app and you can also install Google’s Phone app to replace the stock dialer.
There are, however, a few gripes when it comes to the user experience on mid-range Samsung phones. These include a ton of bloatware or pre-installed applications as part of content partnerships, as well as the Galaxy Store, which keeps coercing you to install more apps. The Galaxy A52 also comes with many pre-installed applications, including Candy Crush Saga, ShareChat, PhonePe, DailyHunt, Facebook, Amazon Prime Video, Amazon Shopping, Netflix, MX Takatak, Moj, LinkedIn, Outlook, Microsoft Office, and OneDrive. Many of these apps send unwanted notifications that could hamper the supposedly “Awesome” experience that Samsung has been vouching for. Besides, Samsung also pre-loads some more non-essential apps such as SmartThings, Samsung Internet, Galaxy Wearables, Samsung Pay, Bixby, and AR Zone. Interestingly, the smartphone does not support Google’s ARCore just yet.
The Galaxy A52 comes pre-installed with an app called “AppCloud,” powered by ironSource and Samsung’s Galaxy Store. It runs at the time of setting the phone up and suggests users to install certain third-party apps. While this concept is not new, AppCloud prevents users from proceeding further without consenting to its Terms & Conditions. Not only that, the nightmarish UI is purposefully designed to force users to install certain apps even when they do not wish to. What worsens this is the fact that you cannot uninstall it, and it comes up every time there is a new OTA update on the phone.
Other than the bloatware, there isn’t a lot to worry about in terms of the software experience on the Galaxy A52. Thankfully, you can install most of the preloaded apps and use a custom launcher to bypass some of these limitations.
Cameras, OIS, Snapchat filters
The camera is yet another area in which the Galaxy A52 sees an upgrade. The smartphone features a quad camera setup on the back, including a 64MP primary camera, a 12MP ultrawide angle camera, a 5MP macro camera, and a 5MP depth sensor. Meanwhile, the phone also features a 32MP front camera for selfies. In addition, the Galaxy A52 comes with OIS for shake-free video recording.
The primary camera is paired with an f/1.8 lens and captures 16MP images by default with the help of 4-in-1 pixel binning. The Camera app is fairly identical to other high-end phones, including the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra or the Galaxy S21 series. Here are some of the camera samples taken with the primary camera on the Galaxy A52:
Alongside 16MP images, the Galaxy A52 can also capture images utilizing the full resolution of the sensor, i.e., 64MP. The images captured with the 64MP mode in the Galaxy A52 appear less saturated than those clicked using the 16MP mode in daylight. In fact, the 64MP images have more natural tones while the 16MP ones appear artificially boosted. However, the smartphone takes 3-5 seconds to process the 64MP image and the shutter time is usually long, which may result in a blurred image if you are holding the phone in your hand.
At night or in low-light conditions, the pixel binning feature adds a good amount of exposure to the image. Surprisingly, the Galaxy A52’s camera extends the exposure time even without the Night Mode, taking well-lit night shots. Here is a comparison between the images taken with the 16MP and the 64MP modes at night.
The 12MP ultrawide angle camera utilizes an f/2.2 fixed-focus setup, offering a 123° wide field of view. Here are a couple of sets comparing the standard and the ultrawide field of view with the Galaxy A52’s cameras:
In addition to capturing more light in the 16MP mode, the Night Mode on the Galaxy A52 also strengthens low-light photography. The Night Mode improves the color accuracy of the primary camera and enhances exposure on the ultrawide camera significantly. Here are a few examples of images taken without and with the Night Mode using the primary and ultrawide cameras:
Aside from the two cameras mentioned above, the Galaxy A52 also comes with a 5MP fixed-focus macro camera that allows you to capture images of objects that are 3cm to 5cm far from the phone’s camera module, i.e. when the distance between the phone and the object is shorter than the minimum focal length supported by the primary camera. The quality of the images taken with this camera is mediocre at best, and the colors appear hazy and washed out — as is the case with most dedicated macro cameras on smartphones. Here are a couple of examples:
For selfies, you get a 32MP camera that appears to deliver the same impressive quality as we saw during our Galaxy A50s review. Here is a couple of selfies without and with the portrait effect taken on the Galaxy A52:
When it comes to video, the Galaxy A52 can capture up to 4K video at 30fps or 1080p video at 60fps. The OIS (optical image stabilization) only works while capturing a video at [email protected] or lower using the primary camera. Meanwhile, the phone also comes with a separate “Super Steady” mode which refers to EIS (electronic image stabilization) and it is available on FullHD video @30fps captured using the ultrawide angle. As you would expect, the Super Steady mode is not as efficient as the OIS on the smartphone but it will smoothen out jittery videos to a noticeable extent.
The Galaxy A52 gets the Pro video mode in which users can modify basic settings such as ISO, focal length, exposure, aperture, and white balance. You do not get the option to change the microphone’s direction as we see on premium Samsung devices.
In addition to the stock features, the Galaxy A52 also gets the Single Take feature from the Galaxy S21 series. Further, the inbuilt Fun Mode lets you use a few filters from Snapchat within the Camera app.
Overall, the Galaxy A52’s camera has almost every feature that an average millennial or Gen-Z user would desire from their smartphones. As we see above, the camera quality is good enough in most scenarios. Not just that, the use of a Snapdragon chipset on the Galaxy A52 should eventually allow the developer community to port a Google Camera mod suited for the smartphone. At present, if you wish to use GCam on the Galaxy A52, you can use this version, but the results may not be very satisfying.
The Galaxy A52 comes with a 4500mAh battery along with support for up to 25W fast charging. While the Galaxy A52 does come with a charger within the box — unlike its premium siblings, it is rated at 15W. Using this 15W charger, the Galaxy A52 takes about an hour to go from 10% to 80%. Further, it takes 15 more minutes to reach 90% and a total of 1.5 hours to charge fully.
In contrast, a 25W charger from Samsung increases the rate of current by roughly 30% and should charge the phone fully in an hour. The only downside to this is that you will have to buy this fast charger separately. Additionally, the Galaxy A52 also supports USB-PD, but the charging rate is limited to 15W.
When it comes to the battery output, the Galaxy A52’s battery went from 100% to 50% in about 10 hours of usage with moderate workload and roughly 4 hours of screen-on-time (SOT) with Adaptive Brightness turned on. While Samsung claims you can get two-day battery life from the smartphone, it does predict 1 day and 10 hours based on my short-term usage, which is not bad for the 4500mAh battery either.
The Galaxy A52 gives me mixed feelings about these things
Other than things to love, the Galaxy A52 does have some bits that will make the decision of buying this smartphone arduous. I hope the following section helps you make a more informed decision.
No fast charger, case, or earphones in the box
The Galaxy A52 gets improvements in several areas, including its performance, cameras, charging, display, and software experience. But to make up for these advancements, Samsung has resorted to cost-cutting on other fronts. As I mentioned above, you will no longer get a case or a pair of wired earphones with the smartphone. On top of that, you get a relatively slower 15W charger with the Galaxy A52. You will have to buy a Samsung 25W fast charger to utilize its fast charging — or how Samsung calls it, “Super Fast Charging” capabilities.
A Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G chipset powers the Samsung Galaxy A52. While it is a major improvement over the Exynos 9611 chipset, we saw on the Galaxy A51 and the predecessors, the Qualcomm mid-ranger does feel a little inadequate in certain scenarios. There are noticeable stutters through the UI, especially when the phone is charging or apps are being updated in the Google Play Store.
To quantify the performance of the Galaxy A52 and compare it with similarly priced smartphones, I ran Geekbench 5 and 3DMark on the device. The results are compared with the Xiaomi Mi 10i 5G (aka Mi 10T Lite or Redmi Note 9 Pro 5G China) powered by Snapdragon 750G, OnePlus Nord powered by Snapdragon 765G, and Samsung Galaxy F62 powered by Exynos 980.
Samsung Galaxy A52 vs. Xiaomi Mi 10T Lite vs. OnePlus Nord vs. Samsung Galaxy F62: Synthetic benchmarks
As you can see in the table below, the Galaxy A52 scores the lowest in competition with its peers on Geekbench. Additionally, the slower Adreno 618 GPU leads to lower scores in graphics tests.
|Benchmark Test||Samsung Galaxy A52||Xiaomi Mi 10i/10T Lite||OnePlus Nord||Samsung Galaxy F62|
|Geekbench 5 Single-Core||526||619||581||809|
|Geekbench 5 Multi-Core||1531||1964||1794||2044|
|3DMark Sling Shot OpenGL ES 3.1||2525||2710||3147||5130|
|3DMark Sling Shot Vulkan||2419||2504||2986||4588|
|3DMark Wild Life||1036||1087||1635||3387|
When it concerns gaming, the Galaxy A52 is good for moderate and/or occasional gaming. While you can also run heavier games like COD Mobile, you will easily notice major touch lag and delayed response during the game, and those hiccups will impair your gaming experience.
To test how sustained workloads impact the performance of the Galaxy A52, I ran the CPU Throttling Test. The benchmark was run for two different scenarios — a) the phone being used in standard operation mode and b) while the phone was charging. The tests for both of the cases were run for 30 minutes each.
The Galaxy A52’s performance takes a hit in both cases, but charging did not seem to hamper the output of the test.
It is interesting to note that the Galaxy A52 does not heat too much while charging, and the battery percentage increases almost linearly with time. While there is some noticeable heating when you game on the smartphone, the plastic back and the frame do a pretty good job in insulating. However, one downside of this is that the internals are likely to be forced to withstand more heating. As you can see in the right image above, the max temperature reached 50°C, and while that is not alarming for a phone’s hardware, it can hamper performance, and the dips in the plot are good examples of that.
Things to worry about on the Galaxy A52
Alas, the Galaxy A52 is not all bells and whistles and has some traits that might unsettle buyers. I have already discussed these two traits — the build quality and the state of pre-installed apps — in the sections above.
Concerning build quality
Coming back to the build, the plastic construction is not so much of a bugbear as is the fact that this back panel does not feel reliable and sturdy. Don’t get me wrong, the previous models in the series have had similar “Glasstic” back panels, but the snazzy designs did contribute to its saving grace. On top of that, the more boxy design of the Galaxy A52 and the 0.5mm of added thickness make the phone slightly unpleasant in hand. If you plan to use the phone for a long duration, using a case is a must.
Adware and Bloatware
Another worrying aspect of the Galaxy A52 is the abundance of bloatware on the Indian unit. This may be limited to only certain regions which lack strict laws. However, Samsung is still trying to adopt the same strategy as Xiaomi, OPPO, Vivo, or Realme to recover some of its costs — even though the Galaxy A52 is already priced higher than comparable smartphones from those brands.
Conclusion – A great buy with some nuances to weigh
The Samsung Galaxy A52 brings many improvements over the older generations. While the hardware gets a major upgrade, the smartphone’s software experience is likely to drive many users looking for a long-lasting phone that can replace their old iPhone SE’s and XR’s. The improved experience includes a superior display, better cameras, and fast charging. Meanwhile, the Snapdragon 720G chipset brings improved performance, better thermal stability, and support for the Google Camera mod compared to counterparts in the Exynos family.
It is interesting to see that while other brands are aiming to bring flagship-grade performance to the budget segment, Samsung is taking an entirely different route to the same destination by opting for features like a superior camera, Super AMOLED, IP67 rating, and up to four years of software support for its intended alternatives to flagship devices.
There are, however, some compromises you will have to make along the way, and one of them is the mediocre build quality of the phone, the absence of earphones, a protective case, or a fast charger in the box, and some bloatware. If those do not irk you, then the Galaxy A52 is a great phone.
If you want slightly better performance, a better display, and 5G connectivity, the 5G counterpart called the Galaxy A52 5G is the obvious choice. Other options in this price range are Google Pixel 4a LTE, Moto G 5G (review), the upcoming Moto G50, and the OnePlus Nord (review). If you are open to exploring other avenues, the recently launched POCO F3 appears to be a tempting choice.
The Samsung Galaxy A52 4G variant is priced starting at €349 in Europe and ₹26,499 (~$365) in India. The phone’s 5G version will also go on sale in the US starting April 2021.