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

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.