In an effort to boost public perception of the hardware in its flagship Galaxy S4, Samsung has added a specific code to both variants of the device that overclocks the CPU and GPU to its max level on certain whitelisted apps – and they’re all popular benchmarking apps.
Anandtech’s in-depth investigation of the matter revealed an application in the GS4 containing the string “BenchmarkBooster” calling out popular benchmarking apps such as Antutu, Quadrant and GLBenchmark. The application – a file called TwDVFSApp.apk – recognizes when the whitelisted app is opened by the user, and immediately sets the CPU and GPU to its max clock speed for as long as the app is opened.
For the GS4 variant containing the Exynos 5 Octa chip, the hidden app automatically switches the device to run on the Cortex-A15 cluster, and the default 1.2GHz clock speed does not drop for the duration that any whitelisted app is opened.
As a result, the scores on the benchark tests on the whitelisted apps are obviously skewed in Samsung’s favour, with Anandtech recording a 10.8% increase in scores compared to a similar benchmarking app that was unaffected (GFXBench 2.7.0 and GLBenchmark 2.5.1).
Naturally, in a mobile space where benchmark scores are becoming an increasingly important initial gauge for consumers about a device’s capabilities, rigging the hardware to work harder when certain benchmark apps are triggered is rather unethical – though Anandtech notes that this practice does happen in the PC industry.
If left unchecked, this practice will start an unhealthy precedent in the industry, with Anandtech noting that if left unchecked, “we end up in an arms race between all of the SoC and device makers where non-insignificant amounts of time and engineering effort is spent on gaming the benchmarks rather than improving user experience.”