Review of the Samsung A52 5G phone

Several weeks ago I and Stephanie both received our new phone, the Samsung A52 5G. I got the phone for free from my new employer, for Stephanie I purchased a subscription from T-Mobile which included the phone. We chose T-Mobile because they would give us an extra discount and more mobile data because they are also our internet provider (for our glass fiber connection).

I chose a Samsung A52 5G because it’s a relatively new model with good hardware and an affordable price around € 380. While not as good as Apple’s upgrade policy, Samsung promised that this phone will receive three major Android version upgrades. This means it will be updated for three years, with one additional year for security updates. Also, as I’ve mentioned before Samsung doesn’t produce phones in China, that major human rights abuser.

The one thing which is seriously bothering me is all the bloatware which is shipped with the A52 5G and other Samsung phones. Presumably it’s not as bad as it was before, but to me it’s still very irritating. A small part of the bloatware is actually useful, such as the Microsoft apps which I need for work, but most are just Samsung’s own apps which are inferior imitations of their Google counterparts.

So why didn’t I buy a Google Pixel phone then? The Pixel 4a is sold for roughly the same price, the Pixel 5 is sold for € 630. Not only do I think the Pixel 5 is too expensive, when I compare hardware specifications the A52 5G seems to be better than both Google phones. Same goes for the Fairphone, which I also considered and is sold for € 440: hardware is inferior, it’s still on Android 10 and it doesn’t even have an OLED display. And I haven’t checked, but I suspect both the Google phones and the Fairphone are probably manufactured in China.

Fortunately, there are solutions for the bloatware. Because some of the bloatware can’t be removed normally, I had to resolve to ADB to disable them. Just follow some guides such as this one or this one. I used this list here to remove the specific packages from my phone and can confirm my phone is still working fine without all the annoying bloatware.

Next was adjusting some settings to limit Android’s spying. There’s a good guide on which options you can disable. The more severe measures will limit some functionality, like that of Google Assistant, but I chose to follow all the advice and can confirm it works well for me. Another measure mentioned in the guide and which I certainly recommend is using apps which respect your privacy instead of Google’s defaults. Instead of Google Chrome, I use Firefox as my web browser with the Privacy Badger add-on to block trackers and DuckDuckGo as the default search engine. I use Signal for instant messaging, ProtonMail for e-mail, ProtonCalendar for calendars and BitWarden for password storage.

I still use some Google services occasionally though. There isn’t any replacement for public transport route planning in the way it is provided by Google Maps. Sometimes, I need Google, Google Scholar or Google Books to find things I can’t find with DuckDuckGo. Because ProtonCalendar doesn’t provide calendar sharing yet, I have to use Google Agenda to share our collective calendar with my wife. Ideally, an app like maps.me should implement public transport planning, DuckDuckGo should give better search results and have a replacement for Google Books and Google Scholar. Once ProtonCalendar allows sharing calendars I might be able to convince my wife to switch to that.

As for the A52 5G itself, I’m still not sure whether I like the fact that, like almost all modern phones, it’s so much bigger than my iPhone 6. I use the phone together with the silicone back cover accessory sold by Samsung to protect it from falls. This back cover has a rough surface so that it doesn’t slip from your fingers, but another consequence of this is that it pulls my pocket inside out when I grab my phone from my pocket. My final complaint is that the in-screen fingerprint scanner of A52 5G isn’t as accurate as the ordinary fingerprint scanner on my iPhone 6. It happens too often that the A52 5G fails to recognize my finger. As for performance, I don’t have any complaints. I don’t run demanding apps like games and don’t notice any slowness when using my phone. The screen is good. Bottom line is that this phone is a good choice for its combination of price and quality, provided that you get rid of the bloatware.

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