Samsung has just been found guilty of artificially boosting the performance of its smartphones. Geekbench banned Samsung flagships for manipulating their score. so it’s time to break down what is going on and why Samsung is doing it? how it’s a problem? why it’s even more rampant than you think? and then ultimately how to solve it?
What is happening?
So smartphones are getting more and more powerful each year. we’re annually promised a 20 to 30 per cent performance improvement by manufacturers and chip makers and there are no two ways about it. this is a big part of why people upgrade but it is also kind of a lie. what’s just been discovered on Samsung phones is a piece of software known as the game optimizing service which is completely hidden.
it runs in the background to limit the performance of many apps and games. It gets worse when you realize that the apps that have not had their performance capped are benchmarking apps. the apps that people use to reassure them that their phone is astoundingly powerful.
Before I explain why this is such a problem, it’s worth understanding why exactly Samsung is doing it.
Why is Samsung Doing It?
Mobile phones have limitations. there’s only so much of a cooling mechanism you can fit in there. and there’s only so much of a battery you can fit in there. while phone chipsets are getting more and more significant each year. Qualcomm isn’t lying when they say that in terms of peak performance, their latest snapdragon 8 gen 1 is 30 per cent faster than their previous chip.
What they’re not explaining to you is that the cooling mechanisms and the battery sizes in most phones aren’t able to keep similarities with that improvement. If you just let a current flagship chip run at full speed in a normal smartphone, it would not just suck your battery dry but would also get so hot after just a few minutes. Would then have to lower its performance. To stop it from damaging itself.
So if you’re in the middle of a game while this was going on, you might see an unexpected drop in frame rate. This is where Samsung’s game optimizing service comes in. It monitors performance. Preventing the chip from ever surpassing its full capacity. Which while praiseworthy in that it’s only aiming to safeguard the user. And to make sure that they never experience that unexpected jitteriness or their battery life being zapped out of existence. I can’t help but feel like it is also a little misleading.
The essence of it is that all those numbers that were being referred to all the time like Samsung tell us how much faster one phone is versus its predecessor. Chipmakers explaining to us how their new architecture is bringing us extreme refinements. Benchmarking apps tell us that we’re in the top one per cent of all smartphones in terms of power. It makes them all meaningless.
You’ve given money for the hardware in your phone. So not being given the option to use it properly and not being given the correct calling mechanisms for it to run as proclaimed, is an issue. It would be one thing if Samsung had limited performance of all apps but for them to give privileges to benchmarking apps to make people think that they have a chart-topping device. Only to then limit the performance when they believe users won’t know. That is where it becomes a bit manipulative.
Geekbench Score Manipulation
Android Police did some smart work on this. They discovered that if they re-labelled the Geekbench as a normal game Genshin impact such that the phone didn’t anticipate it was benchmarking. So carried on limiting performance as it does with other apps. The actual score that came from this benchmark was 24 pre cents lower than when it was recognized. Even Geekbench thought it was a bit cheeky. They’ve now permanently de-listed Samsung devices from using their service announcing Samsung has fooled their scores will no longer count.
Though it’s not just Samsung, apple had some big-time trouble a few years ago for slowing down iPhones to maintain battery life. They even had a 113 million dollar charge to pay for not informing what they were doing to their buyers. One Plus was caught in the middle of last year manipulating benchmark scores in almost the same manner as Samsung. Huawei was found doing it on their mate 20 Pro. Xiaomi and RealMe did it. Pretty much every smartphone company has done some kind of performance tweaking to limit the chip in normal apps and then push it to run at its best only when it’s being tested in benchmarking apps.
It’s a pretty common issue but I guess the most worrying part of it is, it’s not going to fix itself. It’s going to get worse if we don’t fix it. Think about it, chipmakers Qualcomm and Samsung are two of the major ones. They’re going to keep pushing to try and hit their yearly maximum performance improvements. They have to. That’s their business model. But the physical area inside smartphones for cooling and bigger batteries is not expanding at all to adapt.
For a new chip to be announced with say a 20 per cent efficiency improvement. Meaning that for each unit of performance you get it spends 20 per cent less energy. Then the same chip will also often come with like a 30 per cent increased peak performance. While there is an all-around improvement it also means that if push this new chip to its max. It will eat up more power than the last chip when that one was at its max. So if you expected to keep your battery life even, you’d have to use a lower proportion of the power available.
At that point, you’re just spending more for performance that you’re not able to access. Thankfully all of this confusion directs us to a very clear decision.
What Are The Solutions?
The fact that Samsung’s been using this game optimizing service. A problem? yes. But you know the CEO himself has publicly confessed.
Samsung has now put out a software update to the galaxy s22 series to allow you to turn this optimization off. Is it all sorted then? no the main problem here is not that.
All these companies are trying to silently stop the chips from overheating with software restrictions. It’s more the fact that they have to do this in the first place. I’m not saying that Samsung’s game optimising service is not doing its job. What I am saying is that if Samsung didn’t use this game optimising service you would have a deeply poor user experience. And that is a problem.
What Manufacturer And Chip Makers Can Do
So to fix it, I think one of two things needs to take place. One is on the manufacturer’s end. If a manufacturer wants to use the fact that their phones are powered by a certain chip in their promotional material and they want to boast about how fast that phone is because of it. Then I think there should be a minimum level of cooling that they have to include. To allow that chip to maintain close to its peak level of performance. If their phones are not delivering the environment that allows these chips to work as announced. Then they shouldn’t be able to claim that they’re being powered by these chips. Because a regular buyer is going to be misdirected.
Then the second thing is on the chipmaker’s end. Where they shouldn’t be concentrating so much on hitting levels of peak performance. They know almost no phone will be able to uphold. Rather, focus on making a more battery efficient chip that can keep its temperatures under control. If next year Qualcomm or Samsung managed to release a chip that is all around just 30 per cent more efficient. Then even if they already bumped that peak performance by say 15 per cent or so I would say that is a very good thing. Does that mean we’re getting a chip where phones can use all the extra power they’re being given? Whilst also expanding battery life not reducing it?