OnePlus was found to be throttling apps to save battery life on its OnePlus 9 series handsets, triggering a new controversy for the firm.
“Our top priority is always delivering a great user experience with our products, based in part on acting quickly on important user feedback,” a OnePlus statement reads. “As a result of feedback, our R&D team has been working over the past few months to optimize the performance [of the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro] when using many of the most popular apps, including Chrome, by matching the app’s processor requirements with the most appropriate power. This has helped to provide a smooth experience while reducing power consumption. While this may impact the devices’ performance in some benchmarking apps, our focus as always is to do what we can to improve the performance of the device for our users.”
This makes sense to me: One of the primary selling points of OnePlus smartphones is their highly optimized Android derivative, which OnePlus calls OxygenOS. And this change did occur in the wake of feedback: OnePlus says it didn’t initially ship the OnePlus 9 series with this particular optimization, it instead made the change after customers asked it to “improve the devices’ battery life and heat management.”
The problem for OnePlus, of course, is that it’s found itself in trouble in the past for allegedly cooking benchmark tests. So when Anandtech reported on the new OnePlus optimizations, Geekbench promptly delisted the new OnePlus handsets from its Android benchmark chart. How dare OnePlus optimize its phones.
“It’s disappointing to see OnePlus handsets making performance decisions based on application identifiers rather than application behavior,” Geekbench tweeted. “We view this as a form of benchmark manipulation. We’ve delisted the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro from our Android Benchmark chart. We will also test the other OnePlus handsets in our performance lab to see if these handsets also manipulate performance in the same way. If they do, we will delist them from the Android Benchmark chart [too].”
What this means is that OnePlus optimized the 9 series handsets by slowing performance when specific apps—among them Chrome, Twitter, Zoom, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube—are used rather than when the phone is heating up or maxing out the processor. Arguably, the latter approach would be more sophisticated and perhaps more in line with what the company’s customers were asking for.
It’s also worth pointing out that the OnePlus 9 series contains the most powerful components available to smartphones today, and that even when throttled to protect battery life, these apps all run extremely well. It’s not like customers noticed performance degradation—as had happened before with iPhone when Apple was found throttling those devices to trigger more hardware upgrades—and that’s what led to the Anandtech tests.
In the end, this highlights why benchmarks are so pointless. No one ever complained that Chrome, for example, ran poorly on a OnePlus 9 series handset. But Chrome reported “abnormal” benchmark scores for a handset with a Snapdragon 888 processor. And I find it odd that Geekbench, a company that exists solely to provide artificial and meaningless benchmarks, would be so taken aback by scores that are artificially low; OnePlus wasn’t trying to game some benchmark here, it was trying to give its users a better overall experience. This is literally the reason why customers buy OnePlus handsets in the first place.