T-Mobile’s free 5G phone got early mixed reviews

The budget Samsung phone being offered as part of a T-Mobile upgrade initiative has fast internals but a mediocre display.

T-Mobile really wants to be the wireless phone service of choice for people who absolutely must have 5G network access.

On Wednesday, the phone company said it would soon start offering a budget-level Samsung phone to new and existing customers if they trade in a phone — any phone, even an old-school flip-style handset— and maintain an eligible line of service for at least 24 months.

The phone being offered as part of the initiative is the nSamsung Galaxy A32 5G, the company’s newest entry-level handset capable of connecting to the next-generation 5G network. At launch, the device will be offered exclusively in the United States by T-Mobile and is expected to eventually make its way to the phone company’s prepaid subsidiary Metro by T-Mobile.

While the gadget isn’t officially for sale just yet, some reviewers managed to get their hands on international versions of the device, which sport many of the same internal and external specs as the handset that T-Mobile will soon offer to its customers as part of the upgrade deal.

Those early reviews were something of a mixed bag: The phone received high marks for offering 5G connectivity at a budget price along with the inclusion of a quadruple camera array on the back of the phone, a fingerprint reader on the side power button that seemed plenty responsive and the ability to use a micro SD card to expand beyond the phone’s limited 64GB of on-board storage.

But the display left a lot to be desired: While most phones — including Apple’s cheapest 5G phone, the iPhone 12 Mini — sport newer-style OLED displays, the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G sticks with a basic LCD display that offers just 720p resolution, not the sharp, 1080p or higher resolution found on other phones.

The Samsung Galaxy A32 5G uses a MediaTek 720 processor, which is commonly found in entry-level Android phones. Those processors are not as speedy as the Qualcomm SnapDragon ones that are incorporated into mid-range and top-tier Android phones. Coupled with the phone’s 4GB of RAM, the Samsung A32 5G is good enough for basic web browsing, e-mail writing and video streaming, but might become bogged down if users have several apps open at once, a problem that could get worse over time when new versions of Android and associated apps become available.

No one expects a budget-priced, entry-level handset to compete against the heavyweights like Apple iPhones or even Samsung’s own line of premium, S-model Galaxy phones — which is good, because the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G can’t.

But not everybody needs a super-fast, feature-rich phone. Some people just want a device that can do the basics — surf, stream and work with the occasional game. All the better if it can do those things on a reliable 5G network, which T-Mobile touts as better than its rivals.

For most people, the prospect of getting a good-enough, mostly-free Samsung 5G phone is going to be a hard offer to pass up. Less clear is whether that phone will hold up over two years.

The good news is, T-Mobile is pretty generous with phone upgrades, and the company is always coming up with hard-to-beat deals for new and current customers alike. By the time the Samsung A32 5G starts to show its age, T-Mobile will likely have another good offer to exchange that model for an even better one.

For those who simply want to buy the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G outright, the phone goes on sale at T-Mobile this Friday for $282 plus tax. An upgraded version of the phone, the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G, will be sold by T-Mobile and its prepaid subsidiary Metro by T-Mobile for $504 plus tax.

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