This phone isn't budget by any means. It's packing features that were flagship-worthy not so long ago and there are remarkably few concessions made in order to bring the price down. If the Galaxy A series is Samsung's attempt at world domination, they're going about it the right way.
Somewhere at Samsung is a guy working on a pinboard with bits connected by string. He probably looks a little like Charlie Kelly from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and it’s his job to plan global smartphone domination. If Samsung’s Galaxy A52s 5G is any indication, our fictional Charlie is making himself redundant.
The Galaxy A52s (we’re going to drop the ‘5G’ now) offers a considerable amount for its R9,000 asking price. Can other companies beat it in terms of value? Sure. Poco is one such brand. The problem is that you’ve never heard of them. Samsung has the bigger… package, as it were.
Speaking their language
If you’re at all familiar with Samsung A-series smartphones, you’ll have some idea what to expect from the A52s’ design. It’s slightly blockier than Samsung’s flagships but borrows a little of their design language. This is most apparent from the front (all smartphones look the same when the screen is off). On the rear, you’ll see it on the raised camera bump.
The back-panel, in our review phone, is plastic. But, and this is the important bit, it doesn’t look like it. You’ll have to go at the panel with a fingernail to figure out what it’s made from. The good news? That plastic panel actually manages to feel premium. Charlie’s been busy.
The SIM/microSD slot is on the top of the phone. The power and volume rocker live on the upper right side. The base is where the magic happens. This is where you’ll locate the major speaker port, the USB-C charge port, and a 3.5mm jack. There’s a fingerprint scanner in the A52s’ screen, but it’s a little close to the base for comfort. It works, though.
Watch this closely
Samsung’s A-series, as its more bonkers ads insist, are all about the screen, camera, and battery. On the screen front, at the very least, the company is spot-on. The 6.5in front panel uses Samsung’s excellent Super AMOLED and sports a resolution of 2,400 x 1,080. Samsung’s managed to shoehorn a 120Hz refresh rate upgrade in here, but it’s mostly for motion smoothing. You’ll get better battery life (and don’t lose much in terms of visuals) by setting it to 60Hz.
That’s not to say the screen isn’t excellent. It is. If, as is likely, you’re planning to use this for at least some Netflix and YouTube, you’ll be well served. It’s hard to go wrong with AMOLED, as the phone is at pains to point out. Its default wallpapers and lock screen choices show off the phone to its best advantage. Samsung’s also included a touch sampling rate of 240Hz here, which will serve you even better when it comes to gaming than the 120Hz feature.
Gotta go fast
There’s a decent crop of parts behind the screen. You’re not just paying for a pretty face here. A Snapdragon 778G lives inside, while we had the 6GB RAM/128GB storage version of the phone for review. There’s also an option that offers 8GB of RAM, but you won’t find one of those in South Africa. You also won’t easily lay hands on the 256GB storage version. Pity.
But it’s certainly speedy enough, both in the day-to-day of if you’re the sort of salivate over benchmarks. Apps are snappy, popping open at a touch. We did notice a little hesitation when first booting the phone, but that was probably just the initial setup completing in the background. Once it was up and running, we were able to swap between apps with little delay.
Which isn’t that surprising. The Galaxy A52s uses the Snapdragon 778G, the same processor that lives inside Honor’s new 50 and 60 handsets. It’s also part of Huawei, Realme, Vivo, and Oppo’s stable of upper-midrange devices, and with good reason. It’s reasonably quick, and it adds 5G.
Worth a thousand words?
The camera is the next big tick-box and it’s here that Samsung does… okay. It’s not as fantastic an effort as you’ll see from the Galaxy A52s’ screen, but you shouldn’t be disappointed. Unless you’re expecting low-light miracles, in which case you can spend twice as much money, okay?
There are four rear sensors here — a 64MP main, a 12MP secondary (ultrawide), and then dual 5MP lenses. These take care of depth and macro functions. As Samsung cameras go, these aren’t anything special. But nor is the price, something you should take into consideration. Performance is competent in decent light, but even with 64MP shots enabled, you’ll lose a bit more detail zooming in than you’d expect from this megapixel count.
There’s a 32MP front-facer and both camera sets, front and back, can record 4K at 30fps. 1080p video bumps that up to 60fps, and most of Samsung’s software trickery is in place here too. But this is merely a ‘good’ effort from Samsung, who are happy to do far better if you give them more money.
There’s a little more to see here. Samsung’s claiming a 4,500mAh battery here, but CPU-Z only reports 4,200mAh. For all that, it’s enough to get you through the day with moderate-to-heavy usage. The fact that Samsung’s kept the 3.5mm jack here will make them popular with a certain type of Android user. And then there’s the waterproof rating. The Galaxy A52s features a full IP67, making it a contender for roaming around the beach this December.
On the software front, Samsung’s done okay. Spotify and Netflix are installed from the outset, but you’ll have to uninstall Facebook yourself when you boot the phone up. There’s some bloat, from Google (mostly essential), Samsung (mostly optional, unless you live in the ecosystem), and Microsoft (eh…). These are, happily, all contained in their own folders and you’ve got to go looking for them. Just like we like it.
But there’s one downside. Samsung’s OneUI 3.0, running over Android 11, seems a little needier than it usually is. Which is fine, you can get it to bugger off, but we had a few flashbacks to Samsung’s TouchWiz UI (which is designed for the hard-of-thinking). The horror…
Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G Verdict
If you’re rocking a smartphone budget of under R10k, you can do considerably worse than Samsung’s Galaxy A52s. You can also do a little better, but that’s actually difficult to pull off. And you’ll have to make do with a really shoddy phone design. Oh Poco X3 Pro, you could have been truly great… Anyway, Samsung’s upper-midranger ticks all the boxes you want, and a few you’re only curious about. It’ll last at least a full day, has an absolutely gorgeous screen, and is powerful enough to game on. The camera is no slouch either, but Samsung’s high-end hardware has spoiled us a little. We’ve seen what the company can do when properly motivated ($$$) and it’s hard to step back after that.