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Samsung Galaxy A52s review: Jack of all trades

Can Samsung's latest affordable phone fight off the spec-loaded competition?
Reviews
By
September 22, 2021
Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G lead shot with display on
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority
aa2020 recommended

Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G

The Samsung Galaxy A52s has all the hallmarks of an excellent affordable smartphone. What it lacks in premium trimmings like a top-tier processor and fast charging, it makes up for with a high-end build, excellent display, long-lasting battery life, and long-term software support. A modest upgrade over the already great Galaxy A52 5G, the Galaxy A52s is a very easy phone to recommend.

What we like

Stunning 120Hz display
Premium polycarbonate construction
Decent cameras
IP rating
Excellent battery life
Comprehensive software support

What we don't like

Slow charging speeds
Average stereo speakers
Some models have bloatware

Our scores

Battery
Display
Camera
Performance
Software
Design
Audio
Value
Table of contents

It’s no secret that the smartphone industry moves at a blistering pace. Smartphone update cycles are constantly getting shorter in the face of intense competition. So it comes as no surprise that Samsung is introducing a supercharged version of the Galaxy A52 5G mere months after launch. The updated handset is designed to better compete in the premium mid-range market. However, in typical Samsung fashion, the Samsung Galaxy A52s is an incremental upgrade with a focus on experience over all-out performance. In the Android Authority Samsung Galaxy A52s review, we see if that experience combined with Samsung’s brand cachet can win out over a loaded spec sheet to establish the phone as a credible premium alternative.

Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G
$457.50 at Amazon
About this Samsung Galaxy A52s review: I tested the Samsung Galaxy A52s over a period of seven days. It was running Android 11 version (RP1A.200720.012.A528BXXU1AUH3) on the June 1 security patch. The unit was provided by Samsung India for this review. While officially named the Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G, because there isn’t a non-5G version available we’ll be referring to the device as the Galaxy A52s throughout.

What you need to know about the Samsung Galaxy A52s

Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G in hand with the display on
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority
  • Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G (6GB/128GB): £409 / €449 / Rs. 35,999
  • Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G (8GB/128GB): Rs. 37,999
  • Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G (8GB/256GB): €509

The Samsung Galaxy A52s is a mid-cycle upgrade over the Galaxy A52 5G that Samsung introduced earlier this year. As such, it echoes the design language and brings about upgrades in performance as well as charging speeds. The phone enjoys a sweet spot in Samsung’s premium mid-range segment serving as the perfect jumping point — before the Galaxy S20 FE and at least until we see the Galaxy S21 FE — for anyone looking for a higher-end experience without breaking the bank. Meanwhile, the Galaxy A52 5G (as well as the vanilla Galaxy A52 in some regions) continues to exist at a slightly lower price point for those who want the looks, but don’t necessarily need the added performance of the Galaxy A52s.

Related: The best cheap Samsung phones you can get

The Samsung Galaxy A52s is available in three variants with the primary difference between them being the amount of RAM and storage. You’ll find four color options here: Awesome Black, Awesome White (tested), Awesome Mint, and Awesome Violet. The mint color option isn’t available in India. The Galaxy A52s is available to buy in Europe and India, but notably not in the US at the time of writing.

Design: Familiar yet refined

Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G angled up against flower pot rear view
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The Samsung Galaxy A52s wholeheartedly embraces the design language of the broader Samsung product portfolio but makes it its own through subtle cues. However, this being a mid-cycle refresh, the phone looks nigh identical to the recently launched Samsung A52 5G — but that’s not a bad thing.

Take, for example, the back of the phone. The gradual elevation of the camera section evokes Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S21 series and does a good job of masking the otherwise chunky camera module. The all-encompassing matte-finish on the back panel stands out amidst a sea of glossy, often gradient imbued alternatives.

Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G placed on grey fabric showing back panel top down view
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

There’s a common misconception that polycarbonate, by definition, is not a premium material for a phone. However, that isn’t necessarily true. Polycarbonate, when done right — as in the case of the Galaxy A52s — can feel surprisingly luxe. The matte white finish on the variant I have on hand resisted scratches, fingerprints, and scuffs much better than the glass-equipped alternatives.

The excellent weight distribution and high-quality materials make the phone feel top-tier in the hand.

At 189g, the phone also feels great in the hand, more so due to the excellent weight distribution. The chrome-finished polycarbonate mid-frame unfortunately isn’t quite as premium and tends to attract fingerprints.

Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G display on with Netflix content
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Meanwhile, the 6.5-inch Super AMOLED display stood out as a highlight to me. It’s a typically Samsung panel with its bright and vibrant colors and a slight bend towards oversaturation out of the box. That’s easily corrected with a few software toggles if you prefer more natural tones. While a good panel is almost a given in the premium mid-range segment, the 120Hz panel employed by the Samsung Galaxy A52s stands apart for its peak brightness levels and sheer crispness. I had no trouble at all reading content outdoors under direct sunlight.

There is, however, a caveat here. The screen can only be set to 120Hz or 60Hz. The refresh rate does not scale up or down to adapt to the content and save battery life. Additionally, the size of the bezels around the display is rather distracting and takes away from the otherwise premium look of the device.

The slow in-display fingerprint reader can get annoying very quickly.

Other table stake features include an in-display fingerprint scanner, though it’s anything but fast. Accuracy levels are great, and the scanner never failed to recognize my biometrics. However, compared to practically everything else on the market, it takes almost a second to recognize the fingerprint and unlock the phone.

The Galaxy A52s continues to feature the IP67 rating from the Galaxy A52 5G to protect the phone against errant splashes and dust. The display is also protected by Gorilla Glass 5.

Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G close up of screen in hand
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The Samsung Galaxy A52s carries forward the design innovations made with the Galaxy A52 series and makes little to no changes. That’s not really a bad thing since Samsung nailed the premium mid-range aesthetic, for the most part. Basics like tactile feedback and typing experience are all on point. However, the lack of meaningful improvements like smaller bezels and an adaptive refresh rate is rather unfortunate.

How powerful is the Samsung A52s?

The Samsung Galaxy A52s is part of a fresh crop of devices powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 778G chipset. Qualcomm’s upper mid-range chipset is, by and large, a variant of the Snapdragon 780G and features the same octa-core configuration with four Cortex A78 cores and four Cortex A55 cores, only this time it’s paired up with an Adreno 642L GPU.

Read more: Snapdragon SoC guide — All of Qualcomm smartphone processors explained

All in all, there’s ample power here for most users. I didn’t face any performance constraints at all during my week with the phone. For everyday tasks like social media, web browsing, and listening to music, the phone holds up rather well and I’d wager a guess that the frugal chipset played a role in ensuring long battery life as well (more on that in the next section). Gaming isn’t an issue either and I had no trouble maxing out Call of Duty: Mobile.

Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G in hand showing app drawer.
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

That mid-range positioning, however, is evident when you look at benchmark scores. Based on legacy benchmarks and our own Speed Test G results, the chipset is far behind the likes of the Snapdragon 888, or even the Snapdragon 870 that powers some competing phones like the OnePlus 9R. This performance delta shouldn’t be immediately problematic for most users. There’s ample grunt here and it’s a welcome upgrade over the Galaxy A52 5G’s lesser Snapdragon 750G. However, it could still affect the longevity of the phone if you are the kind to hold on to your device for a couple of years.

Does the battery last all day?

Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G display with browser on.
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Like the Galaxy A52 5G before it, the Galaxy A52s houses a capacious 4,500mAh battery. Samsung’s exemplary battery optimization shines here and the phone easily lasts a day and a half of use. With extensive use of Twitter, Reddit, Slack, and emails, I never had range anxiety and the phone still had juice in the tank at the end of a busy workday. Smartphone testing usually involves heavier workloads than usual and I’m fairly confident that the phone will last two days for lighter workloads. More so if you drop the refresh rate down to 60Hz or play around with some of the extensive battery optimization tweaks.

The glacial charging speeds are saved by the long-lasting battery life.

That said, Samsung dropped the ball when it comes to charging speeds. To start with, the Samsung Galaxy A52s supports a maximum of 25W charging. That alone is slow compared to the 65W+ speeds being championed by some alternatives. However, the real kicker is that the included charger caps at 15W. Like the Galaxy A52 5G, topping off the phone takes over an hour and a half which isn’t the slowest we’ve seen, but you’ll need to buy a compatible fast charger to achieve the fastest speeds possible. There’s no wireless charging support either but that’s an acceptable trade-off considering the price.

Are the cameras any good?

Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G camera module in hand
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The quad-camera array on the Samsung Galaxy A52s isn’t surprising considering the A52 5G sports much the same setup. This includes the current mid-range favorite combination of a wide-angle, ultra-wide and macro lens which is paired up with a depth sensor for better portraits — no telephoto camera here.

The primary shooter does a good job though images have a very “Samsung” look. This includes a tendency to brighten up shots, aggressive HDR toning of skies, and a general proclivity to boost saturation. The boosted exposure levels, however, tend to also boost noise levels in shadows, which is quite apparent if you blow up the images on a big screen.

I wasn’t particularly pleased with how the phone handles extremely bright settings. The first image, for example, was shot under direct sunlight on a typically sunny afternoon and isn’t very representative of the actual setting. Not only have the reds and yellows been boosted up, but the foliage in the backdrop also looks rather washed out due to the attempt at bringing out more details. The blue sky looks almost fake due to the aggressive HDR. There is, however, a good amount of detail here.

See also: The best budget camera phones you can buy

The image on the right is once against exposed just a bit too high. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that the camera is bad. In fact, some users might quite like the social media-friendly results. Purists, on the other hand, should stay away.

The ultra-wide camera on the Galaxy A52s certainly isn’t bad, though it has to be said that distortion could’ve been handled a bit better. There’s not too much color variance between the ultra-wide shooter and the primary camera and the level of detail here is pretty good.

The lack of a telephoto camera means that zoomed-in shots are wholly digital crops. With ample sunlight, the results afforded by the 64MP sensor aren’t half bad, though close inspection readily reveals digital artifacts and jagged edges.

Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G indoor shot of video game and PlayStation
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Indoors or in less than ideal light, things are, well, not so ideal. The ramped-up exposure levels also bring out a fair amount of noise and grain. While shots look fine on the phone’s display, artifacts from the digital noise reduction and grain levels are very noticeable if you try to crop in, or view the image on a bigger display.

I came away rather impressed with the portrait mode capabilities of the Galaxy A52s. The phone accurately determined the outline of the object in focus and produced a pretty natural-looking depth of field effect.

The excellent portrait mode capabilities extend to the front camera where the phone did a decent job of creating a depth map around my unruly hair. It’s not quite perfect and errant strands tend to get blurred out but the results are more than satisfactory.

In fact, I came away rather impressed with the selfie camera in general. Colors are on point, more so than from the rear camera, and exposure levels are accurate as well with plenty of details in shots.

Images captured by the Galaxy A52s have a very Samsung look.

On the video front, recording maxes out at 4K 30fps which is perplexing considering 60fps support is available on many other, more affordable smartphones. Video quality is pretty good, with a decent amount of detail, and nicely saturated colors.

You can take a look at the full resolution Samsung Galaxy A52s camera samples at this Google Drive link.

Anything else?

  • Software: The bloatware situation on the Galaxy A52s is, to put it mildly, pretty bad. I can appreciate the sheer amount of features that Samsung includes with One UI. However, that simply doesn’t excuse the 35+ apps that came pre-installed with the Indian unit I tested. European models may vary, but that’s without mentioning the widgets, and notification spam through Samsung’s built-in apps — something that the company has promised to stop doing, but hasn’t at the time of writing. Moreover, not all of these apps can be removed. For shame, Samsung.
  • Stereo speakers: The Galaxy A52s includes stereo speakers, but they’re not particularly good speakers. Output sounds thin with no semblance of bass. Volume levels, on the other hand, are good enough for calls or to watch YouTube videos.
  • Headphone jack: Yup, it’s there and it works as you’d expect. Audio quality is satisfactory and the phone had no trouble driving any of my headphones.
  • 5G support: Samsung is championing the robust 5G support on the Galaxy A52s on a wide range of bands. That does not, however, include mmWave 5G, which isn’t a surprise due to the price or the lack of US availability.
  • Wi-Fi 6 support: In addition to 5G, the Galaxy A52s also supports Wi-Fi 6 — a minor but very welcome upgrade over the other Galaxy A52 series phones.
  • MicroSD support: Samsung has included microSD support via a hybrid SIM slot and users can easily expand storage via the second SIM card slot.
  • Updates: The company has promised three years of OS upgrades and four years of security updates for the Galaxy A52s, making it one of the few phones in the segment not made by Google with excellent long-term software support.

Samsung Galaxy A52s specs

Samsung Galaxy A52 5G
Display
6.5-inch Super AMOLED
FHD+ (2,400 x 1,080)
Infinity-O (display cutout)
407ppi
120Hz refresh rate
Processor
Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G 5G

1 x 2.4 GHz Kryo 670 Prime
3 x 2.2 GHz Kryo 670 Gold
4 x 1.9 GHz Kryo 670 Silver
GPU
Adreno 642L
RAM
6 or 8GB
Storage
128 or 256GB
microSD support (up to 1TB)
Power
4,500mAh battery
25W fast wired charging
No wireless charging
Cameras
Rear:
1) 64MP main
Optical image stabilization (OIS)
Auto-focus (AF)
0.8µm, ƒ1.7

2) 12MP ultra-wide
Fixed focus (FF)
1.12µm, ƒ2.2

3) 5MP macro
1.12µm, ƒ2.4, FF

4) 5MP depth sensor
1.12µm, ƒ2.4, FF

Front:
1) 32MP main
0.8µm, ƒ2.2, FF
Audio
Bluetooth 5.0
Stereo speakers
3.5mm headphone jack
Connectivity
5G Sub6 (FDD & TDD)
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax
Bluetooth 5.0
NFC support
Security
In-display fingerprint sensor
IP67-rated against water/dust
Face unlock (insecure)
Software
Android 11
One UI 3.0
3 years of updates
Dimensions and weight
159.9 x 75.1 x 8.4mm
189g
Colors
Awesome Black, Awesome White, Awesome Purple, Awesome Mint

Value and competition

Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G back panel in hand
Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G
The Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G delivers a premium design, an upgraded Snapdragon 778G processor, and a large 4500mAh battery.

The Samsung Galaxy A52s competes in a very crowded segment in India and Europe, but the phone will deliver a lot of value to a very specific kind of user. There’s no denying the quality of construction and general polish to Samsung’s hardware. Where the phone lacks in raw performance, it delivers in refinement — even though the bloatware can be a put-off. The cameras (notably the main and selfie shooters) deliver the goods and battery life is exemplary. The Galaxy A52s might not be the best in any one category, but it comes across as a dependable performer backed by long-term software support.

See also: The best smartphones under 40,000 rupees | The best phones under £500

Performance enthusiasts might want to take a look at the Realme GT (£399/Rs.37,999) that offers the might of the Snapdragon 888 chipset as well as significantly faster charging and a very good camera for not much more money.

Another competitor for those exclusively in India is the OnePlus 9R (Rs. 39,999) that packs a more powerful Snapdragon 870 chipset as well as a clean software build and a premium design. In Europe, there’s the OnePlus Nord 2 (£399) that undercuts the Samsung Galaxy A52s while delivering better performance, though the cameras are a little inconsistent.

Finally, gamers will particularly like the Poco F3 GT (Rs. 26,999) or that pairs a fast Mediatek Dimensity 1200 chipset with unique magnetic trigger buttons that truly elevate the mobile gaming experience, or the Poco F3 (£329) which opts for the Snapdragon 870 processor and a more traditional look.

Samsung Galaxy A52s review: The verdict

Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G back panel in hand
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The Samsung Galaxy A52s isn’t an exceptional phone, but it sure is a reliable one. You could fault the lack of a flagship-grade chipset, faster charging, or even better cameras, but that’s not what the phone is trying to achieve. Gamers and photographers have alternative options.

The Samsung Galaxy A52s is a no-fuss affordable phone with no real deal-breakers.

The Samsung Galaxy A52s is a no-fuss phone that gets all the essentials right, and the performance upgrade keeps things moving along at a steadier clip than the Galaxy A52 5G. If you can find a model without the bloatware, you’re left with a well-supported phone that is an easy recommendation as a daily driver.