After a recent investigation by Anandtech pointed out that a number of popular apps were experiencing sluggish performance on the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro, OnePlus has now admitted to throttling hundreds of popular apps to help “reduce power consumption.”
Anandtech’s Andrei Frumusanu noticed that a number of popular browsers, including Google Chrome, performed significantly worse on benchmarks such as Jetstream 2.o and Speedometer 2.0, posting results more similar to those from old budget phones than a modern high-end device. And while Gizmodo does not use those benchmarks as part of our review process (due in part to previous tampering from companies including OnePlus and others), we can confirm similar numbers in our own testing.
Upon further review, Anandtech discovered that OnePlus had installed a custom OnePlus Performance Service function that throttled the performance of apps like YouTube, Snapchat, Discord, Twitter, Zoom, Facebook, Microsoft Office apps, and even a number of first-party apps from OnePlus. And by limiting the performance of certain cores in the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro’s Snapdragon 888 processor, OnePlus was effectively throttling these apps in order to help deliver increased battery life.
In a statement provided to XDA Developers, OnePlus has confirmed it throttled the performance of apps on the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro:
“Our top priority is always delivering a great user experience with our products, based in part on acting quickly on important user feedback. Following the launch of the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro in March, some users told us about some areas where we could improve the devices’ battery life and heat management. As a result of this feedback, 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. 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.”
While OnePlus’s decision to limit the performance of apps to help increase battery life might be helpful when you’re away from an outlet, the manner in which OnePlus implemented these practices feels extremely shady, especially when you consider that a number of other phones like the Galaxy S21 that also use a Snapdragon 888 chip don’t employ throttling.
At the very least, OnePlus should have made users aware and given them the option to potentially increase battery life at the expense of performance.
Following the discovery of OnePlus’ throttling efforts, popular benchmark maker Geekbench decided to delist scores for the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro from its database. But what makes this situation even more embarrassing is that this isn’t even the first time OnePlus has been caught manipulating its phones’ behavior in a way that affected performance.
When I reviewed the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro, one of my biggest criticisms about the phones is that OnePlus seems to have settled into a pattern of cutting corners in order to compete with rivals like Samsung, without delivering the same kind of design, water-resistance certification, and performance customers have to come expect from a premium device.
Hopefully, now that OnePlus has been caught red-handed, the company will adjust its approach when it comes to balancing performance and battery life.