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July 9, 2021

🐉 Happy Friday everyone! My weekend plans include cleaning, laundry, and finishing up Dragon Quest 11 (not necessarily in that order).

Yet another OnePlus benchmarking controversy
OnePlus 9 Pro close up of hassleblad
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

OnePlus has been in the news all week for reducing performance in its latest flagship phones, but now that the dust has settled it’s worth taking a deep dive into what exactly happened and what the implications are.

In case you haven’t been following the news, here’s a quick recap:

  • First discovered by Andrei at AnandTech, it appeared that the latest OnePlus 9 Pro suffered from terrible browser benchmarks in routine tests.
  • Upon closer inspection, Andrei noticed that the phones were switching to less powerful (and less power-hungry) Cortex-A55 cores instead of the much faster X1 core.
  • This saves some battery life, but reduces performance significantly.
  • The list of affected apps includes 300 of the most popular apps on the Play Store, including Chrome, Twitter, and others.
  • Here’s a quick 6-minute video that explains the issue in simple terms that anyone can understand.

Now, reducing performance isn’t necessarily a big deal, especially if it actually improves battery life. If you can’t notice the slower speeds in daily use without using benchmarking software, it seems like a win for consumers.

However, many fans are (rightfully) upset that their new $1,000 smartphone that promises best-in-class performance is throttling its processor in nearly all daily apps.

  • The issue here is transparency (and no, I’m not talking about the controversial X-ray camera that shipped with the OnePlus 8 Pro).
  • Phones from Samsung and other OEMs offer the option to toggle between performance and battery-saving modes.
  • On the OP9 Pro, this “optimization” was done in secret, and turning off all battery-saving options does nothing to change performance.
  • If OnePlus is willing to cut corners here, who knows what else the company has skimped out on. The fact that OnePlus wasn’t forthright implies some kind of wrongdoing.
  • The controversy also brings up a number of questions:
  • Is Oxygen OS simply bloated and unoptimized? Who decides which apps are affected? Will OnePlus tweak performance in older devices, like Apple paid a $113 million fine for doing in 2020?
  • Also, if no one noticed until now, what does that say about the necessity of these high-powered devices in the first place? Aren’t budget or mid-range phones a much better buy?

This also isn’t the first time OnePlus has been in hot water for tipping the scales in benchmarks, although in the past it has always been to create more favorable numbers, not worse ones.

  • The OnePlus 9 Pro has already been removed from Geekbench for software optimizations that the site views as cheating.
  • OnePlus has issued a response to the controversy, but it doesn’t do much to clear its name:
    • “…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. This has helped to provide a smooth experience while reducing power consumption.”
    • It goes on to say “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.”
  • If performance were truly the goal, optimizing software and giving users the option to choose what kind of performance matters to them (battery or speed) seems like the obvious way forward, especially for an enthusiast brand like OnePlus.

📱 The Google Pixel 5a was spotted in FCC documentation, giving away some secrets (and raising some questions). A full launch is almost surely imminent. (Android Authority)

5️⃣ A recent leak suggests that the Google Pixel 6 may offer five years of updates, matching Apple’s update promise on iPhones. (Android Authority)

🐉 Qualcomm and Asus have teamed up to release the first-ever Snapdragon-branded consumer devices. The set includes a tweaked ROG Phone 5 and true wireless active noise-cancelling earbuds, and will run nearly $1,500. (Android Authority)

❔ How loyal are smartphone users to their favorite brand? Here’s what our survey says it would take for fans to jump ship. (Android Authority)

🚔 The FBI secretly sold “Amom” phones to criminals in a huge honeypot operation. It turns out that the phones were Pixel 4a devices with some interesting customizations. (Android Authority)

🏎 In search of the intersection of the world’s most unusual Venn diagram, Dodge will debut an all-electric muscle car in 2024. (Engadget)

💰 In less encouraging news, Volkswagen and BMW have been fined $1 billion for running an emissions cartel. (CNN)

💀 I’ve never felt more justified in my fear of water and cars: What moment made you say “Yep, I’m definitely dead”, but survived with no major injuries? (r/AskReddit)

Friday Fun
Wrestling JRPG signs

Wrestling fans are known for their fervor, but recently that excitement has been channeled into an interesting realm: Japanese RPGs. (via Kotaku)

More specifically, the question at hand is which Final Fantasy game is best. Fans bring hand-written signs into the arena to wave while their favorite wrestlers faux pummel each other into submission.

The argument will only heat up as COVID restrictions relax and more in-person events take place. Keep an eye on the drama in the background of the next big WWE event.

(P.S. The correct answer is Final Fantasy Tactics.)

Until next week,

Nick Fernandez, Editor

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