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Samsung Galaxy A42
What we like
What we don't like
Samsung Galaxy A42
The Samsung Galaxy A42 5G is an affordable 5G phone that slots into the middle of Samsung’s A series devices. That means it strikes a balance between features and price in order to appeal to a wide potential user base. Its Galaxy A stablemates aren’t the only competition, however, and the A42 is playing in a tough market of ~$400 phones from the likes of Motorola, Google, and others.
Does the A42 have what it takes to stand out? Find out in Android Authority‘s Samsung Galaxy A42 review.
Update, July 2022: We’ve updated this review to reflect the new competition on the market, the latest software update released for the Galaxy A42, and more.
What you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy A42
- Samsung Galaxy A42 (4GB/128GB) launch prices: $399 / £349 / €399
The Samsung Galaxy A42 is part of a large family of phones, which includes the Galaxy A02, Galaxy A12, Galaxy A32, Galaxy A42, Galaxy A52, and the Galaxy A72. Yes, that’s quite a lineup. Some of these phones are almost two years old at this point, and their successors have already been released.
Unlike other models in the A series, there is no non-5G variant of the A42 to confuse the situation, so we’ll be referring to the phone as the Galaxy A42 in this review for brevity.
In the US, the phone is available from Verizon Wireless, Amazon, Best Buy, and Samsung, so you have your choice of retailer. It is also being sold in Europe, Asia, and selected other markets. In the core international markets, the Galaxy A42 comes in a single model with 4GB RAM and 128GB storage and is available in three colors: Prism Dot Black, Prism Dot White, and Prism Dot Gray.
How is the hardware?
Samsung makes a decent piece of hardware. The Galaxy A42 is a mid-range phone, so it keeps materials and sex appeal in check. But that doesn’t make it boring or staid. The phone is about exactly what I expect to get for the price point, and that’s absolutely fine.
You might say it looks like a glass sandwich, but that’s not quite what’s going on. The phone has a polycarbonate frame with a plastic rear panel and a Gorilla Glass 3 front panel. Samsung assembled the pieces together tightly. I didn’t see any gaps in the seams or other blemishes in the build.
The rear panel is eye-catching. Whether you opt for the black, white, or gray model, the “Prism Dot” effect gives you a four-tone pattern on the back. Samsung lent us the Prism Dot Black colorway and I rather like the way the pattern on the rear panel works. It may not appeal to everyone, but at least it stands out to some degree. Samsung also kept the square camera module in check.
Thanks to the 6.6-inch display, it’s a large device. It measures 164.4 x 75.9 x 8.6mm and weighs in at 193g. If your priority is a big phone, the Galaxy A42 has you covered. It’s not overly awkward, but it is a handful. The smooth plastics are a bit on the slippery side, though that also means the phone slides into your pocket with ease. There’s no IP rating for this phone, which we wouldn’t necessarily expect at this price point, though it’s becoming increasingly common to offer at least official splashproof protection on budget phones.
If your priority is a big phone, the Galaxy A42 has you covered. It's not overly awkward, but it is a handful.
Samsung did well with the controls and ports. The power button and volume toggle are on the right edge and have good travel and feedback. The positioning is just right. There’s a combo SIM/microSD card tray on the left edge of the phone; the Galaxy A42 can handle memory cards up to 1TB.
You’ll find the USB-C port, headphone jack, and downward-firing speaker on the bottom of the Galaxy A42. I appreciate the headphone jack and was impressed with the mono sound from the sole speaker. The speaker generates plenty of volume and clarity is good at lower settings, though it breaks up some if you crank it all the way up. My only real complaint is that the speaker is easy to cover with your finger when holding the phone sideways to watch videos.
On to the display. The 6.6-inch screen fills the majority of the phone’s front panel. There is a U-shaped notch at the top and a slight chin along the bottom.
The phone’s Super AMOLED display offers HD+ resolution with 1,600 x 720 pixels at the standard 60Hz rate. Other $400 phones have Full HD+ screens, so I am a little disappointed with the resolution here — more so because I’ve seen 720p screens that looked sharper. Close inspection of the display means easy-to-spot pixels. On-screen elements such as icons and text are slightly rough around the edges. That’s not to say the screen is hard to read. It’s totally fine; it could simply be better. The good news is that viewing angles are good, outdoor visibility is fine, and the screen otherwise delivers a solid experience.
Last, the fingerprint reader. It’s built into the screen, which is a cool bit of tech to see at this price point (in the US at least). However, I found it a bit of a pain to train the first time, and the performance was mixed. Unlocking the phone via pattern or PIN was often as quick as it was via the fingerprint reader. Your mileage may vary.
In sum, the Samsung Galaxy A42 is a solidly designed and built device. It’s not the most exciting handset in the market but it offers a good everyday experience when it comes to usability, aesthetics, and features.
How powerful is the Galaxy A42?
The Samsung Galaxy A42’s performance is a little up and down. It is endowed with an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G processor — same as the Galaxy A52 5G — with an Adreno 619 GPU, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage. That’s a solid combination, though we’d prefer to see a minimum of 6GB of RAM for future-proofing. The Snapdragon 750G sits in the middle of Qualcomm’s stable of upper mid-range processors. It features slightly newer CPU cores when compared to the Snapdragon 765/768 series, though it makes concessions in graphical processing power and machine learning capabilities.
The phone did a fine job with the easy stuff, but intense games are a different story.
What does this mean in the real world? The Galaxy A42 serves up smooth daily performance. Animations were stutter-free, apps opened and closed quickly, and I didn’t encounter any notable performance snags. The camera app, in particular, ran very well. The phone did a fine job with the easy stuff. For example, the simple games preinstalled, such as Candy Crush, ran perfectly on the Galaxy A42. Intense games were a different story. The phone really struggled with the graphics-rich Asphalt 9, which demonstrated choppy gameplay and janky sound.
Benchmark performance was somewhat uneven. The phone ran CPU benchmarks lickety-split but didn’t fare so well when it came time to push the GPU. In our homegrown Speed Test G performance benchmark, the phone ran the gauntlet in two minutes 36 seconds, which is about where a mid-range phone typically lands. This lines up with what we know about the Snapdragon 750G’s CPU/GPU capabilities.
While the Galaxy A42 is far from the best budget gaming machine in the market, it absolutely suffices for normal everyday smartphone needs.
What is the Galaxy A42’s battery life like?
Samsung went big with the Galaxy A42’s battery. It boasts a 5,000mAh power cell, which is what we like to see in phones at any price and is quickly becoming the new normal for phones at the $400 mark.
Here is where the display really helps the phone. With the HD+ resolution and standard 60Hz refresh rate, the screen doesn’t require as much battery power as a higher-resolution or faster display might need. That’s good news for the Galaxy A42 and potential owners, though it doesn’t quite justify all the aforementioned caveats about the overall display experience.
Related: The best phone charging accessories
The Galaxy A42 easily sailed through two full days of usage. It wasn’t gasping for breath at the end of the second day, either; it often still had 10% or more in the tank come the close of day two. I was very impressed with the screen-on time, which exceeded nine hours. The Galaxy A42 absolutely delivers excellent battery life.
Of course, you have controls over the battery to extend battery life should you need to. There’s the basic power-saving mode, as well as a tool for controlling how much power apps draw when they’re open in the background. These can help push battery life even higher when required.
The A42 easily sailed through two full days of usage.
Charging speeds are limited to 15W. The in-box charger meets the phone’s 15W speed and charges the phone at a medium rate. In my tests, the phone took just over two hours to charge fully from dead. That feels pretty slow when you consider some phones can charge in half an hour these days, but it’s not bad considering the price point.
There’s no wireless charging and we wouldn’t expect that feature in this segment anyway.
How good is the camera?
Mid-range phones are not known for killer cameras, but the Samsung Galaxy A42 manages to get by. The phone has three lenses on the rear, with the main camera of 48MP at f/1.8, an ultrawide camera of 8MP at f/2.2, and a depth camera of 2MP at f/2.4. These are joined by a selfie camera on front at 13MP. Video capture is limited to a maximum of 4K at 30fps.
The main shooter does well when there’s plenty of light. The shots I took outdoors were clean, in focus, and showed good color. Plenty of detail is visible in each shot though the white balance was a tad inconsistent at times. Things change when you go indoors, however. The amount of grain seems to go up exponentially as there’s less and less light. The HDR function barely seems to work, and photos are filled with overly bright and overly dark spots. The flash can help in a pinch, but not much. While indoor shooting is a challenge to many phones, I’ve seen better from other phones in this price range.
A handy picker lets you jump from 0.5x to 1x, 2x, 4x, and 10x. While the 0.5x is handled by the ultrawide lens, everything else is zoomed via cropping. I was pretty pleased with the ultrawide lens, which handled color and exposure well. Focus was good and there was little distortion around the edges of the frame. Zooming in is another story. Up to 2x looked acceptable, but the 4x and 10x shots I got were a noisy mess, as you can see in the samples below.
Shooting portraits worked out well, thanks to the depth sensor. I thought the phone’s ability to score accurate edge detection was good and it dialed in a pleasant amount of background blur. The same applies to portraits taken with the selfie camera. The selfie camera tended to underexpose some shots, but the focus was still good and the white balance was more or less accurate. People who love their selfies should be pleased enough.
Low-light samples turned out grainy and soft. There is a dedicated night mode and it does okay when shooting stuff like cityscapes. Shooting in the near or total dark, however, won’t net you much as you can see in the sample below. The night mode wasn’t able to pull any detail out of the trees nor the yard below. I was particularly disappointed with the lack of sharpness in night mode given I had propped the phone up against my car for stability.
The Galaxy A42’s camera application is carried over from other Samsung devices. It has the expected configuration of shutter controls on one side and quick settings on the other. The shooting mode carousel includes photo, video, Single Take, and Fun. The Fun shooting mode adopts filters directly from Snapchat. This is a feature that is most likely to be used by kids. The More tab is where all the other shooting modes are buried, such as portrait, slow motion, and panorama.
The video I shot with the Samsung Galaxy A42 was on point for a mid-range phone. That is to say it was generally sharp and showed proper color. Exposure was somewhat uneven depending on what I was aiming at, but overall the 4K results appear to be clean. Capturing detail in low light was problematic, but that’s not surprising for a phone in this category.
You can view full-sized photo samples in this Google Drive folder.
- Software: The phone ships with Android 11 and Samsung’s One UI 3.1 in the US. The good news is that the handset has already received the Android 12 update with Samsung’s One UI 4.1. There’s also some bad news: bloatware. The Verizon version of this phone, which we reviewed, is downright packed with bloatware, including a whole raft of Yahoo-branded apps, as well as a half-dozen games, and Verizon apps. Thank goodness most of it can be uninstalled.
- System updates: In a clutch move, Samsung has made a full commitment to three years of software updates for its phones, which means the Galaxy A42 will stay up-to-date for a longer period of time — as long as Google’s Pixel phones, no less. That should make Galaxy A42 owners feel better about their investment.
- 5G: The Galaxy A42’s Snapdragon 750G processor includes the X52 modem for 5G support. Notably, this includes not just the standard sub-6GHz 5G signals, but mmWave too. This is typically reserved only for flagships to provide the very fastest possible data speeds on supported networks such as Verizon. Most of the Verizon signal near my home is the sub-6GHz variety and the phone did a fair job connecting to Verizon’s 5G service. I have tested other phones that do a better job of grabbing onto Verizon 5G. That said, top speeds were mediocre when 5G was available. I hit only 100Mbps down, and uploads were limited to about 20Mbps. Not very impressive for 5G and what we know it can deliver, but if you do live in a mmWave-enabled location you might fare a lot better.
Samsung Galaxy A42 specs
|Samsung Galaxy A42|
6.6-inch Super AMOLED
1,600 x 720 HD+
Qualcomm Snapdragon 750 5G
Wide: 48MP, f/1.8
Ultrawide: 8MP, f/2.2
Depth: 2MP, f/2.4
Video: 4K @ 30fps, 720p @ 240/480fps
5G mmWave, sub-6GHz
15W wired charging
164.4 x 75.9 x 8.6mm
Prism Dot Black, Prism Dot White, Prism Dot Gray
Value and competition
At $399 for full retail, the Samsung Galaxy A42’s price tag is a little bit hard to swallow. It would be better if you could score it for free on contract from Verizon, but you can’t. What bugs me most is the HD+ display. While the lower resolution helps contribute to the phone’s outstanding battery life, a screen this big is begging for Full HD+ resolution. On the plus side, the screen also helps the processor, which performs better in this phone than it did in the pricier Galaxy A52 5G. Other things in the phone’s favor include sub-6GHz and mmWave 5G support as well as a solid software commitment from Samsung. That’s not to be taken lightly.
The most obvious competitors to the Galaxy A42 are Samsung’s own Galaxy A32 5G ($279) and the Galaxy A52 5G ($499), both of which were released around the same time as the Galaxy A42. The Galaxy A32 5G has less storage and lacks mmWave 5G but offers the same camera configuration save for the addition of a macro camera. The Galaxy A52 5G has more RAM but also lacks mmWave and has a smaller 4,500mAh battery. However, it improves the main camera to 64MP and the selfie camera to 32MP. It also has a much better screen.
Successors to both of these phones have already been released and are obviously worth checking out. The Galaxy A53 ($449) is very similar to the A52 5G, but it does come with the latest version of Android out of the box and a bigger battery, among other things. The Galaxy A33 ($279), on the other hand, is an upgraded version of its predecessor, offering a higher resolution display (FHD+ instead of HD+), a faster chipset, more base storage, and faster charging. However, unlike the Galaxy A53, the A33 is not available in the US at the moment, although you can get the international model on Amazon.
As for non-Samsung and non-Verizon handsets, you might look at the Motorola G Stylus 5G ($375), which has a similar price tag and a built-in stylus, but a lesser processor. A 2022 version of the device has already been released, but it costs more at around $500.
Then there’s the Google Pixel 5a ($449). It may be a bit more expensive, but you’re really getting your money’s worth. The Pixel 6a is also just around the corner. And let’s not forget about the Apple iPhone SE ($429), which offers quite a lot of bang for the buck. Apple’s budget phone throws in wireless charging, an IP rating, and a much more powerful chipset.
Samsung Galaxy A42 review: The verdict
Samsung mostly covered its bases with the Galaxy A42. The phone is a solid package that offers a lot in the way of functionality.
It boasts an appealing design that may not be for everyone, but at least it stands out as unique. The screen is big and bright, even if it has a lower resolution than some competitors. The processor delivers the everyday performance people demand, though it is a bit on the sluggish side when it comes to intense gaming.
There is a ton of competition in this space, and the Samsung Galaxy A42 struggles to carve a niche.
Battery life is the big winner here, which benefits from the screen and processor combination. You can count on two full days of usage from this phone, which is more than most other handsets offer, though charging speeds aren’t the quickest. There’s a very welcome headphone jack and though the speaker is a mono affair it delivers solid sound. Memory card support is also a nice bonus alongside the 128GB of built-in storage.
Overall though, the Samsung Galaxy A42 struggles to truly carve a niche among tough competition. Especially since the phone is almost two years old at this point and Samsung is still selling it for its original $400 launch price. We think that spending a bit more for the newer and better Galaxy A53 makes more sense. The phone is also often on sale, going for as low as $350.
Alternatively, getting the Pixel 5a at $449 or waiting for the Pixel 6a seems like a better deal. And if you want to spend less on a Samsung phone, get the newer Galaxy A33.
Samsung Galaxy A42 top questions and answers
Although the phone has many great things going for it, we think it’s not worth buying because you can get a better and newer phone for around the same amount of money.
The Galaxy A42 was announced back in September 2020, which makes it almost two years old.
No, the Galaxy A42 does not have an IP rating.
Yes, the phone supports sub-6GHz 5G, but it does not support mmWave.