Samsung's $400 Galaxy A42 5G is essentially a slightly pared down version of the excellent $500 Galaxy A52 5G, and cutting a few features here and there for a $100 savings seems tempting.
However, if there's one thing you need to know about the Galaxy A42 5G right off the bat is that only Verizon users get access to the carrier's super-fast 5G UW (ultra wideband) network. The unlocked Galaxy A42 5G you can buy from Samsung or Amazon only works with Sub6 5G networks on AT&T and T-Mobile, which aren't as fast as mmWave 5G.
Both phones run the same processors, and performance is nearly identical, but saving $100 means you're missing out on a few things, like water resistance, a smoother and sharper screen, and a better camera system. And, don't forget access to 5G networks from AT&T and T-Mobile.
Still, savings are savings, and the Galaxy A 42 5G does offer a big-phone experience that's worth considering. Just make sure you take a look at Google's Pixel 4a 5G before hitting the buy button. Or, at the very least, hold out a little longer, as Google is rumored to announce a new Pixel 5a 5G some time soon.
|Samsung Galaxy A42 5G||Specifications|
|Display||6.6-inch 720p (1,600 x 720) 60Hz AMOLED|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G|
|Memory and storage||4GB RAM with 128GB storage; expandable up to 1TB with microSD card|
|Rear cameras||48-megapixel main wide, 8-megapixel ultra-wide, 2-megapixel "depth" zoom|
|Connectivity||Sub6 5G (N2, N5, N66,N77, N78), mmWave 5G (N260, N261)|
The Galaxy A42 is on the lower end of the mid-range category, so a plastic back is to be expected here. Still, the phone feels solid with its metal frame, and the design on the back is tasteful and necessary to make it less plain. Despite its fairly large screen and size, it's a comfortable and lightweight phone.
Samsung made little compromise with the screen on the Galaxy A42 mid-ranger. Its 720p resolution might seem low-res for a screen as large as 6.6-inches, but the brilliant AMOLED screen that's typical on a Samsung phone makes up for it. AMOLED screens are basically smartphone equivalents of TV OLED screens, which deliver more contrast than standard LCD screens. The result is a phone that makes everything on the screen pop, and you get a premium experience.
I didn't even notice that it was 720p rather than a sharper resolution until I checked the specs sheet — the popping colors and contrast that are typical in Samsung's AMOLED displays bring a near-premium experience to a $400 device.
Under the display is a fingerprint sensor that's surprisingly fast and accurate. In fact, it even feels faster than the under-display fingerprint sensor on the high-end Galaxy S21 series, which has accuracy issues that can make for a frustrating experience to simply unlock the phone.
The Galaxy A42 5G runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 750 5G processor (CPU) alongside 4GB of memory (RAM), which makes for a fairly smooth experience that's hard to complain about considering the phone's $400 price tag. To be sure, if you're used to premium phones that cost closer to $1,000, you'll find the Galaxy A42 more sluggish and stuttery, but the phone gladly opens and runs your apps and the Android 11 operating system with a B-team's enthusiasm.
One of the biggest draws about the Galaxy A42 5G is its 5G connectivity for an affordable price, but you'll only make the most of its 5G connectivity, including the super-fast mmWave 5G UW networks, if you're a Verizon user. AT&T and T-Mobile users should get the unlocked model, but they won't get fast mmWave 5G. Just note that access to Verizon's 5G UW network isn't a massive perk at the moment, as coverage is still quite limited to certain pockets within metropolitan areas.
The 128GB of built-in storage is generous, and you're able to expand that storage up to 1 terabyte (TB) with a microSD card. You can effectively double the Galaxy A42 5G's storage for under $20 with a 128GB performance microSD card.You'll also find a headphone jack on the bottom edge.
The Galaxy A42 5G has a large 5,000mAh battery that will easily last through a day of moderate and heavy use. You could even stretch the Galaxy A42 5G to two days with moderate usage. A 15W fast-charger comes included, which isn't especially fast these days. Even Apple surpasses this charging speed with its iPhone SE 2020 at 18W. Faster charging with a faster included charger wouldn't make this phone more tempting, but it would have been a welcome bonus.
Triple camera systems aren't unusual for cheaper phones these days, so to find wide, ultrawide, and 2x macro cameras on the Galaxy A42 5G is nothing special. The quality of these cameras are nothing particularly special, either.
The main 48-megapixel (MP) camera condenses all those pixels into 12MP by default, making for better lighting. Photos look fine, but don't expect flagship performance just because of the high megapixel number.
It's fun to have an 8MP ultra-wide angle camera, but you're unlikely to wow people with the ultra-wide photos from the Galaxy A42 5G. There's a lot of unwanted artifacts, like purple fringing, and loss of detail around the edges of ultra-wide photos, and only the very center is sharp and clear.The 2MP depth sensor camera is meant to assist the main camera with creating the blurry-background effect for portrait modes. It can be used as a 2x zoom lens, but photos aren't that sharp with a 2MP sensor, and we would have preferred to see an actual zoom lens.
Unfortunately for Samsung, Google has driven up our camera expectations for mid-range phones. Indeed, we'd rather see one or two amazing camera lenses rather than three serviceable ones, like the Google Pixel 4a and Pixel 4a 5G. Still, the Galaxy A42 5G will capture what you're looking at just fine.
The Galaxy A42 5G isn't the first phone that comes to mind when recommending a mid-range 5G phone, and I'd recommend spending $100 more for something that easily offers a better experience that's worth the extra money. If you're not willing to spend more, the Galaxy A42 5G will suit you users just fine.
You'd do better with Google's Pixel 4a 5G, which still has a decently large screen at 6.2-inches. The Pixel 4a 5G has a more powerful processor, and significantly better wide and ultra-wide cameras. It's $100 more than the Galaxy A42 5G, but you are getting a much better phone. If you can wait a few months more, Google is rumored to announce a successor to the Pixel 4a 5G soon.
The other alternative around the price point is Samsung's $500 Galaxy A52 5G, which has better cameras, water resistance, and a premium 120Hz refresh rate with sharper 1080p resolution. While it's a better phone than the Galaxy A42 5G, the Google Pixel 4a 5G still offers better performance and cameras for the same price.
Otherwise, Apple's $400 iPhone SE goes all-in with flagship performance and functionality, but the design is dated, the screen is small, it doesn't have 5G, and its battery life isn't nearly as long. It has a single camera, but it's a much better camera, which we prefer to middling multiple camera systems, like the one on the Galaxy A42 5G.
If $400 is the absolute limit you're willing to spend, the Galaxy A42 5G will suit you just fine — you do get a mildly attractive, decently-performing phone with decent cameras. If you can muster an extra $100, get the Google Pixel 4a 5G for better performance and cameras, or wait for the rumored Pixel 5a 5G.
Pros: Big beautiful screen, excellent battery life, wide and ultra-wide cameras, well designed
Cons: Unimpressive camera performance, no water resistance$299.99 from AmazonOriginally $399.99Save 25%Antonio Villas-BoasSenior Tech ReporterAntonio is a senior tech reporter for Insider's Reviews team, where he helps lead coverage, reviews, and guides of smartphones, tablets, accessories, wearables, smart home products, as well as audio devices from Apple, Google, Samsung, OnePlus, and other major tech companies. Before joining Business Insider, Antonio was a consumer-electronics analyst at PCMag. He graduated from Colgate University in 2009 with a bachelor's degree in history. You can contact Antonio with tips and cool tech via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org Learn more about how our team of experts tests and reviews products at Insider here. Learn more about how we test tech and electronics.