Smartphone speed tests are the latest home to a scandal over unscrupulous performance enhancers. According to AnandTech, Samsung, HTC, LG, and Asus have all altered some of their devices so that they will perform unusually well during popular benchmarks, which are often included alongside in-depth device reviews. Aside from Motorola and Apple, AnandTech writes that "literally every single [device manufacturer]" they work with has shipped or is currently shipping a phone that inflates its scores. Despite the broad statement, AnandTech only lists a few specific names, and it also appears to exclude Nexus and Windows Phone devices.
The performance gains were slight
The revelation shouldn't mean much to consumers: benchmarks are by-and-large an arbitrary measurement of raw performance, and not a measurement of how well a phone actually runs in day-to-day use. But they're nonetheless a tool that reviewers and some shoppers use when assessing a phone's capabilities, and it seems that these manufacturers may be hoping to give themselves an edge. That practice reportedly isn't present across the board, however. While on certain tests, such as AnTuTu, AnandTech found that every company listed was inflating its scores, it found that on other tests, such as Geekbench 3, only a single device appeared to be inflating them.
Phone manufacturers' methods of doing this appear to be fairly simple: the operating system detects when a specific benchmark is running, and then tells the device's processor to immediately begin performing at its top speed. Overall, AnandTech says that it doesn't even add up to much. It saw a 0 to 5 percent improvement on CPU speed, and for devices that also altered GPU speeds, no higher than a 10 percent improvement on those benchmarks. Benchmark manufacturers are reportedly now looking to outsmart devices — many by simply renaming their apps — but buyers will have to take their scores with an even larger helping of salt than usual until it's clear that these tests can't be bested.