Samsung and Others Cheat on Benchmarks to Impress the Nerds Who Would Bust Them

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Cheating. I don't care for it. If you have to cheat to win, there's no value in the victory. I know there are tons of folks who don't care about such things—and thus we have cheating—but some cheating transcends morality to venture into the weird because it's hard to see how the cheater thought he or she could win in the first place.

Take, for instance, Samsung, LG, Asus, and HTC. Four Android device makers who have all been busted for cheating when it comes to benchmark tests. Anandtech, Ars Technica, and others have done some killer work discovering that these manufacturers have been including code to artificially boost benchmark results on their devices.

Cheating, this Way

Samsung's Galaxy S4, Note 3, and a couple of versions of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 all had code that used a variety of techniques to make the processors in those devices function differently when they detected benchmarking apps than they do when running other software.

Samsung wasn't alone. HTC did something similar with two HTC One models; Asus did the same with the Padfone Infinity (boy, does that name stink); and LG did so with the G2.

In fact, of the major manufacturers (pretend for a moment that any company besides Apple and Samsung matters), only Motorola, Apple, and Google's Nexus brand have zero taint of benchmark cheating.

Check out the articles I linked above for the details. They're both very good reads, but the question I keep coming back to is why Samsung or the other companies would bother?

Let's start with the results. The devices in question first got the attention of the gearheads because they were scoring very well with benchmarking apps. I say "well," but we're talking about results that are 5-10 percent better than other devices running the same processors.

But who cares about that? Ordinary consumers? Please. Most consumers can't be bothered to notice that they don't use their smartphones in the first place. Samsung, HTC, LG, and Asus are not moving big units because a bunch of online gearheads say that the HTC One or GS4 or whatever is 6 percent faster than some other device.

So who cares? The gearheads care. The same gearheads running the tests in the first place. But those same gearheads also noticed that there was no reason for those devices to perform so well.

What do gearheads do when faced with a puzzle? They dig for answers. In this case, it turned out that the answer was that those device makers were cheating.

The thing is that this was inevitable. Cheaters almost always get caught eventually. There was no scenario in which Samsung or the other companies could get away with this behavior, and now that they have been caught, their reputations are being damaged in the very demographic they were hoping to impress with that cheating to begin with.

Note that back in the real world, ordinary consumers still won't care, but the risk of being known as a cheater doesn't seem worth it to me. So why bother?

So kudos to Moto, Google, and Apple for not taking this path, and further shame on Samsung and others for exhibiting immoral and stupid behavior.

Comments

Lee Dronick

Yes, but they did have it first.

wab95

Bryan:

It’s hard to imagine how much more self inflicted injury and insult with which Samsung can flog itself before the wounds begin to embarrass performance and stature. Despite a spate of allegations and embarrassing revelations around patent infringement, treatment of Chinese factory workers, bizarre adverts, poor performance of product releases, more patent infringement allegations (in sectors other than mobile tech), the corporate giant appears unscathed, unsullied and untrammeled - indeed wholly unperturbed - by the dust cloud of scandal that swirls around it.

Three things can explain the granting of such a free pass to any entity that has faced, and continues to face, repeated bad press. The first is that such is the demonstrated behaviour of the entity that the allegations are viewed as palpably and patently false. The second is that, such is public perception of the entity that no one is genuinely surprised. The third is somewhat disturbing; such is the public’s emotional investment in the entity that no one actually cares.

My personal view is that Samsung benefits from a combination of the second and third options; no one is really surprised, and truthfully, no one really cares. I further suggest that this is not due to Samsung per se, but because the protagonist and true focus of the world’s tech attention is Apple, and not Samsung; and that the apparent support and rallying round the Samsung flag, to the extent that it happens, is more an anti-Apple vote than it is a vote of confidence for Samsung. I think that the only people who truly don’t understand this are Samsung executives.

NEALC5

Samsung gets a pass for one reason, and one reason only…. Their devices are cheaper than Apple’s. People say ” well, yeah, they cheat, but I’m saving money, so I can live with it.”  If Apple did this, the condemnation of the entire world would come down upon them.

Samsung has a slightly slimey reputation, so this is just standard operating procedure for them.

FlipFriddle

What wab95 said! smile

LeFrancoy

@ wab95

Your thoughts mirror my own… If ever there is another knight in shiny armour that comes to same the anti-Apple public, they’ll just happily ditch Samsung for said champion.

mjtomlin

@wab95

Spot on.

The anti-Apple sentiment can basically be applied to any of Apple’s competitors though.

Take Android… Most Android “fans” aren’t fans at all, they’re really just Apple haters, they have no loyalty to Android. Anytime these people can rally around a company that is “beating” Apple they do. These were all the same people that “loved” Windows Phone, the Blackberry, Palm, etc. at one point in time. They quickly ditched those camps as they all drowned in Apple’s wake, and quickly moved to Android as it took over.

Not the kind of “fans” any company should want to appease to.

ibuck

A sadly accurate portrayal of human morality: many people don’t care about companies’ stealing & cheating so long as they (the consumer) can acquire something for less money.  In their struggle to “survive” or appear more prosperous, they are willing to “bend the rules.” Rationalizations for their behavior (including “large corporations ripping us off,” “I’m not foolish enough to pay those high prices,” “people are sheep,” “those patents are bull-bleep,” etc) allow them to still perceive themselves as decent, perhaps even “honest.”  Violations of decency, morality, even law are commonplace among companies large and small, and, unfortunately, we tolerate their transgressions. Often because we feel powerless. Some even champion the companies’ behavior in proselytizing a myopic worldview about capitalism.

marcsten

Samsung quickly pointed out tha they were the FIRST to cheat with things specs they lied about in the United Arab Emerates.

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