A new report from AnandTech shows that the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro are programmed to throttle popular apps but run performance benchmarks at full speed. This suggests that OnePlus is intentionally manipulating benchmark scores, and therefore lying to consumers about how well its products perform in the real world.
For those who are out of the loop, performance benchmarks measure how well a computer or phone handles common tasks. Two phones may have the same processor but perform differently, depending on their operating system or construction—it’s not uncommon for manufacturers to reduce chip performance for the sake of thermals or battery life.
Sites like Geekbench collect phone benchmarks, allowing you to compare the real-world performance of two products. These websites are invaluable to consumers, and they’re often referenced by tech reviewers and journalists. By throttling popular apps on its 9-series phones without doing the same to benchmarking tools, OnePlus is lying to customers about how well its devices work.
So, does OnePlus have an explanation for this? In a statement to XDA Developers, a OnePlus representative suggests that throttling is a new feature introduced through firmware updates. According to the company, throttling exists to improve OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro battery life—one of the phones’ weak points.
Our R&D team has been working over the past few months to optimize the devices’ performance when using many of the most popular apps, including Chrome, by matching the app’s processor requirements with the most appropriate power.
That’s a nice explanation, and like OnePlus says, throttling only happens with some of the most popular apps. But the company never told customers that it would reduce phone performance to save battery life, and it did not take the steps to ensure that benchmarks would properly reflect throttled performance.
Also, as AnandTech points out, apps like Chrome run much slower on the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro than they should on a phone with a Snapdragon 888 processor. The idea that OnePlus is “optimizing” these phones by forcing popular to run in low-power cores is a bit unbelievable.
It's disappointing to see OnePlus handsets making performance decisions based on application identifiers rather than application behavior. We view this as a form of benchmark manipulation. We've delisted the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro from our Android Benchmark chart. https://t.co/G40wmWeg7o
— Geekbench (@geekbench) July 6, 2021
Thankfully, Geekbench has pulled the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro from its website, and other benchmarking platforms may follow suit. Geekbench says it plans to check if other OnePlus devices have misrepresented benchmarking scores—hopefully they don’t, because it would be an incredible scandal.
In our review of the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro, we found that the phones had a pretty underwhelming battery life. Throttling may be a good solution here, but customers need to be aware of it, especially when it’s added to phones that people already purchased.