The Samsung Galaxy A52 is Samsung’s latest attempt at an affordable yet attractive smartphone. It sports an elegant design with a sleek rear camera module and a 6.5-inch edge-to-edge display, which also benefits from a smooth 90Hz refresh rate. If that weren’t enough, it also boasts a powerful quad-lens camera system, a sizeable battery, and a strong processor. It’s a great all-around phone at a seriously appealing price. But as good as it is, it certainly has more than its fair share of competition when it comes to reasonably priced devices.
Another superb phone in its bracket is the iPhone SE (2020), which is basically an iPhone 11 without the extra rear camera lens and the large notched screen. It stands as a rare example of a highly affordable Apple smartphone that can actually keep up with flagships, and it’s also a great option if you’re looking for a highly capable phone that won’t stretch your budget.
The question is: Which one is better? To answer this question, we put the two phones through a comparison test to get to the bottom of which is the better low-cost device for you.
|Samsung Galaxy A52||iPhone SE (2020)|
|Size||159.9 x 75.1 x 8.4 mm (6.30 x 2.96 x 0.33 inches)||138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3 mm (5.45 x 2.65 x 0.29 inches)|
|Weight||189 grams (6.67 ounces)||148 grams (5.22 ounces)|
|Screen size||6.5-inch Super AMOLED||4.7-inch Retina IPS LCD|
|Screen resolution||2400 x 1080 pixels (405 ppi density)||1334 x 750 pixels (326 pixels per inch)|
|Operating system||Android 11, One UI 3||iOS 14|
|Storage space||128GB, 256GB||64GB, 128GB, 256GB|
|MicroSD card slot||Yes||No|
|Tap-to-pay services||Google Pay, Samsung Pay||Apple Pay|
|Processor||Qualcomm SM7125 Snapdragon 720G||Apple A13 Bionic|
|RAM||4GB, 6GB, 8GB||3GB|
|Camera||64-megapixel wide, 12MP ultrawide, 5MP macro, and 5MP depth rear, 32MP front||Single 12-megapixel rear, 7MP front|
|Video||4K at 30 frames per second, 1080p at 120fps||4K at 60 frames per second, 1080p at 240 fps|
|Bluetooth version||Bluetooth 5.0||Bluetooth 5.0|
|Fingerprint sensor||Yes, in-display||Yes, front-mounted|
Qi wireless charging
|App marketplace||Google Pay Store||Apple App Store|
|Network support||All major carriers||All major carriers|
|Colors||Awesome Black, Awesome White, Awesome Violet, Awesome Blue||Black, white, red|
|Buy from||Samsung||Apple, AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, Amazon, Best Buy|
|Review score||News||4 out of 5 stars|
Design, display, durability
Let’s be frank: The Samsung Galaxy A52 is — and we can’t stress this enough — much better looking than the iPhone SE (2020). It picks up from the gorgeous design sported by this year’s Galaxy S21 range, featuring a tasty camera bump that smooths nicely into the rear of the phone. It also carries a tight edge-to-edge display with a punch-hole selfie camera and suitably narrow bezels, very much making it look like a phone launched in 2021.
As for the iPhone SE, it very much looks like a phone launched in 2015. It’s basically an iPhone 8, meaning that it features the same thick forehead and chin bezels you’d find on the iPhone 8 and its predecessors. To be fair, this may carry some retro charm for certain users, but there’s really no sugar-coating the fact that its design is outdated and boring.
There’s also no hiding the fact that the A52’s display is sharper and more vivid than the iPhone SE’s. Its 6.5-inch Super AMOLED screen packs 2400 x 1080 pixels, providing 405 pixels per inch. Meanwhile, the iPhone SE shows up with a 4.7-inch LCD display that contains 1334 x 750 pixels, or 326 pixels per inch. The difference in quality is fairly noticeable, particularly given the superiority of AMOLED over LCD displays, and not to mention the A52’s support for a lovely 90Hz refresh rate.
The two phones are more or less at the same level as far as durability is concerned, with both carrying a IP67 rating, which indicates that they can each survive immersion in up to 1 meter of water for around 30 minutes. However, because the A52 looks much better and has a crisper screen, this round is an easy win for Samsung’s device.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy A52
Performance, battery life, charging
The iPhone SE’s main selling point is that it delivers flagship-level performance at a fraction of the cost, coming as it does with the same A13 Bionic processor that powers the iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max. This processor may be a year old, and the SE may have “only” 3GB of RAM, but both are enough for it to outperform the Galaxy A52. The latter runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G, and it comes with 4GB of RAM as standard (which can be bumped up to 6GB or 8GB for an extra cost). This is enough for the phone to handle most apps and games well enough, but you’ll probably notice that it isn’t quite as effortlessly smooth as the iPhone SE.
On the other hand, the iPhone SE contains only 64GB of internal storage as standard, and it lacks a microSD card slot. The A52, by contrast, comes with 128GB of memory as standard and also has a slot for a microSD card, letting you boost your storage even further. It therefore may be the better choice for anyone who takes lots of photos and generally needs extra storage.
It’s a similar story with the batteries of each device. The Galaxy A52 packs a hefty 4,500mAh battery, while the iPhone SE makes do with a 1,821mAh cell. In our review of the SE, we found that its battery life was pretty average, so even though we haven’t properly tested the A52, we’re pretty sure that it will last longer between charges.
We’re ending this round as a narrow win for the A52. Yes, the iPhone SE is faster, but not fast enough to compensate for its small storage space and battery.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy A52
It may have only a single lens, but the iPhone SE has a great camera. That’s largely the result of Apple’s increasingly honed software, which squeezes every last drop of quality out of the 12-megapixel lens on the back of the device. Shots are well balanced in the vast majority of situations, Portrait Mode is suitably competent at taking portraits, and the phone even holds up well in low light.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Galaxy A52 boasts more rear camera lenses but arguably doesn’t offer a better finished product. It includes a 64MP wide lens, a 12MP ultrawide, a 5MP macro, and a 5MP depth lens (for giving shots better perspective), so in theory, it should facilitate greater versatility than the iPhone SE. However, our review of its predecessor — the Galaxy A51 — showed it suffered a little in low lighting, while its 5MP macro lens was also somewhat redundant.
As such, we suspect that the iPhone SE may just about have the edge over the A52 in the camera department, although this may change after we fully review Samsung’s device.
Winner: iPhone SE
Software and updates
This is another round the iPhone SE just about edges. That’s not because its OS — iOS 14 — is superior to the A52’s. No, Android 11 (with Samsung’s One UI 3 skin over the top) is just as good as iOS 14 in its own way, offering greater flexibility and customization, as well as improvements to simplicity and intuitiveness.
What puts the iPhone SE ahead is the fact that you’ll be better serviced with updates if you spring for Apple’s phone. Given that Apple develops the software updates and the SE, the latter will unsurprisingly get new versions as soon as they’re available. We can’t say the same for the A52, which is likely to receive new Android updates after the S21 and Note 20 series. This is why people who like staying on top of bugs and who want the latest features may prefer Apple’s phone.
Winner: iPhone SE
Let’s just get this out of the way now: Neither the Samsung Galaxy A52 nor the iPhone SE (2020) offers support for 5G. There you go, so don’t buy either thinking you’re about to surf the web at unprecedented download speeds.
Aside from (the lack of) 5G, neither phone offers major special features. That said, the aforementioned support for a 90Hz refresh rate is a nice bonus for A52 owners, while the new phone does introduce a number of modest new quirks. This includes a Fun Mode that you can use with the Camera app, letting you add Snapchat-style filters and various augmented reality tricks to photos.
As for the iPhone SE, there isn’t really anything to write home about. It’s basically a very solid phone that does the basics very well. But that’s kind of all you’re getting, so this round is a slim win for the A52.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy A52
Price and availability
The Samsung Galaxy A52 hasn’t been given an official release date yet by Samsung, which hasn’t even confirmed whether — and for how much — it will be available in the United States. That said, it will cost €350 (or $415) in Europe, and given that it is a Samsung phone, we’re fairly confident it will soon launch in the U.S. When it does, it will almost certainly be supported by all major carriers.
The iPhone SE is available now from the Apple website for only $400, although the versions with 128GB and 256GB of internal memory will cost $449 and $549. It’s supported by all major carriers and sold by most major retailers.
Overall winner: Samsung Galaxy A52
Each phone has its own respective strengths and weakness, but on balance, it’s the Samsung Galaxy A52 that wins this battle of the budgets. It looks stunning and has an impressively clear and colorful screen, a long-lasting battery, and generous storage. With the iPhone SE (2020), you do get slightly better performance and a more capable main camera (as well as faster updates), but otherwise, it’s a fairly ordinary smartphone. Still, if you prefer Apple and iOS over Samsung and Android, it certainly won’t let you down.