Red-faced Huawei tries to atone for benchmark-fixing scandal

3DMark has de-listed several Huawei phones

As the competition between flagship phone makers grows, it’s perhaps unsurprising that some will find ways of unfairly outgunning their rivals – and last week, it was discovered that Huawei was tinkering with its leading phones in order to achieve better benchmark results. Tut tut.

AnandTech exposed the Chinese manufacturer’s underhanded practice, citing evidence which proved that some of its phones were cunningly capable of detecting benchmark tests – such as the popular 3DMark app – and pushing the hardware beyond its usual limits to score more striking results. The end result was seriously impressive scores, but ones which didn’t accurately reflect the day-to-day power of the device in question. Naughty Huawei.

AnandTech found that the P20, P20 Pro, Nova 3, and Honor Play were all able to detect the presence of the 3DMark benchmarking application and adjust their performance levels accordingly, but when faced with a benchmark tool they weren’t coded to recognise, performance levels were lower. As a result of the findings, 3DMark maker Futuremark has responded by de-listing the P20, P20 Pro, Nova 3, and Honor Play from its leaderboards – a slap on the wrist that will be very embarrassing to the phone maker.

Huawei has been left rather red-faced by the whole affair and is trying to make amends by opening up this new, so-called ‘performance mode’ to all users who want to use it. The mode will be enabled in EMUI 9.0, the next iteration of Huawei’s custom Android-based operating system that ships with these handsets. Of course, it’s something of a double-edged sword; while it will boost the power of each device, it will also tax the battery more and result in lower stamina.

Despite what seems like a welcome gesture, it doesn’t totally atone for Huawei’s sins, either; massaging benchmark tests is a pretty serious crime in the eyes of tech enthusiasts, and while 3DMark has said that it will gladly reinstate the blocked phones to its leaderboards once EMUI 9.0 arrives, the whole situation is sure to leave a bad taste in the mouths of many Android users for quite some time.

Sadly, Huawei’s behaviour is nothing new in the Android sector. Back in 2013, Samsung pulled a similar dirty trick with its Galaxy S4 phone; it was exposed – along with other Android phone makers – and the problem went away for a while. However, Huawei’s trick proves that just like consumers, the companies that make these devices have very short memories.

As people rely on benchmarks more and more when deciding which phone to purchase, it’s not really all that shocking that some companies will seek ways of inflating that performance artificially in order to make their phones look better than competing devices. However, this kind of practice rarely goes undetected for long, especially given the intense scrutiny most flagship mobiles are put under by sites like AnandTech.

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