Samsung Galaxy A32 5G review: 5G on a budget

If youre looking for a 5G Android phone and want to spend as little as possible, you can stop right here. At $279, the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G is your best bet right now, especially if youre in the US where such options are scarce. It offers good 5G support (including the all-important C-band!), a huge battery, and four years of security updates. Thats a compelling package for under $300.

Thats not to say its perfect. The A32 5Gs screen isnt great, performance is a little laggy, and though capable, its camera is limited. If you can spend just a bit more, you can get a phone that does better in at least one of these areas. And if you can hold off on your phone purchase for even a few more months, we should see many more very affordable 5G phones on the market to choose from, like the OnePlus N200. But if you dont have time to wait and cant spare the extra cash, I cant find a good reason to talk you out of the A32 5G.

The A32 5G is a big device, housing a 6.5-inch screen and a large 5,000mAh battery.

Samsung Galaxy A32 5G screen, performance, and design

The A32 5G features a big 6.5-inch 720p LCD panel thats best described as nothing special. Colors look a little flat and washed out, and though it gets bright enough to see in direct sunlight, the screens reflective plastic protective panel makes it challenging. Its also a low resolution to be stretched across such a large screen, so youll see a little pixelization if you look close.

The phone uses a MediaTek Dimensity 720 5G processor that compares well with Qualcomms Snapdragon 690 5G chipset for budget 5G phones, used by OnePlus Nord N10 5G. The Galaxy A32 5G combines the MediaTek processor with 4GB of RAM (decent) and 64GB of storage (skimpy but just enough to get by, and you can throw in a microSD card to expand it), and it performs well enough for its class.

Theres noticeable hiccuping with media-dense pages, brief pauses when diving into a demanding task like starting Google Maps navigation, and noticeable camera shutter lag. For the most part, though, I just didnt notice slowdowns as I jumped between apps, scrolled through Instagram, and just generally went about using the phone normally. Thats about all Id ask for from a sub-$300 phone.

The phones headline feature, 5G, still isnt something wed recommend you run out and buy a new phone to get. But the A32 5G has a couple of features that make it worth your time, even considering that good 5G is still a year or two away in the US. Crucially, the A32 5G has been cleared by the Federal Communications Commission to use C-band frequencies that Verizon and AT&T, in particular, will be utilizing for 5G in the coming years. Not all 5G phones can use C-band, so thats a big ol checkmark in the A32 5Gs favor. Theres no mmWave support here, which is the fastest and scarcest flavor of 5G, but thats no great loss.

The second factor here is that you can reasonably expect to keep using this phone for enough years to actually see 5G thats meaningfully better than LTE because Samsung will keep offering security updates for four years. Many budget devices only get about two years of security update support, but the A32 5Gs lengthy lifespan should see it through to the actual 5G age in a few years.

Battery life is one of the A32 5Gs strengths. Its 5,000mAh capacity battery is big indeed, and I had no trouble getting two full days of moderate use out of it. My usage was more battery-friendly than someone elses might be, with battery optimization on and the bulk of my time spent on Wi-Fi, but even the most power-hungry user would be able to get a full day if not more out of the A32 5G.

With a 6.5-inch screen, the A32 5G is a big phone for sure. Its a little too bulky and awkward-feeling in my hand. What I dislike even more is that it feels slippery to me the back panel plastic feels hard to get a decent grip on. On one occasion, I set the phone down on a softcover book, and it somehow shimmied itself across the cover and off of a side table when I wasnt looking. (Theres a happy ending, though: it only fell about a foot into a box filled with hand-me-down baby clothes waiting to be put away, so theres a good argument for keeping clutter around your house.) Anyway, get a case for it if you buy this phone, and know that if your hands are small, it wont be very comfortable to use.

Theres a decent-quality 48-megapixel main camera on the A32 5Gs rear panel.

Samsung Galaxy A32 5G camera

There are two cameras of consequence on the A32 5Gs rear panel: a 48-megapixel standard wide and an 8-megapixel ultrawide. Theres a 5-megapixel macro camera thats not very good and a 2-megapixel depth sensor that may or may not help with portrait mode photos. Theres also a 13-megapixel selfie camera around front.

Considering the phones price, the A32 5Gs main camera performs well enough. Like most any other phone, it takes very nice pictures in good lighting. Thats no surprise, even for a budget phone. But it reaches its limits quickly in less-good lighting, like interiors. Thats where optical stabilization or more sophisticated image processing would come in handy, neither of which the A32 5G offers. Instead, you may find some of your photos indoors are a little blurry, and youll be very challenged to get a sharp photo of a moving subject in anything less than bright daylight.

The ultrawide camera shows its shortcomings if you look close theres some distracting flare in direct sunlight, and some noise visible in shadows of high-contrast scenes. Theres no telephoto lens here, with shortcuts in the camera app to jump to 2x (acceptable), 4x (eh), and 10x (dont use it) digital zoom.

The Galaxy A32 5Gs generous security support timeline means its a phone you can plan to use for the next few years.

Its tough to say how the Galaxy A32 5G compares to the competition because it doesnt have much yet. Its among the least expensive 5G phones youll find anywhere. Its closest competition at the moment is the OnePlus Nord N10 5G, which is a little more expensive at $299 but offers some worthwhile hardware upgrades, like a nicer screen, a bit better camera performance, and faster charging. Its a nicer phone in a lot of ways, but its only slated for two years of security updates.

Of course, if you only plan to hold on to your phone for a couple of years, then the N10 5G is worth strongly considering. If thats the case, then 5G becomes a less important feature, too. If theres room in your budget, consider the $349 Google Pixel 4A, which will get you a much better camera, cleaner software, and timely updates over the next couple of years, albeit without support for 5G at all. Its a much smaller device, though. So if a big screen is part of the A32 5Gs appeal, you might want to look at something like the $279 Motorola Moto G Stylus.

If youd like to avoid the hassle of phone shopping again in two years and you want a future-proof choice thats easy on the budget, then the Samsung A32 5G will do the trick.

Photography by Allison Johnson / The Verge

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