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OnePlus Says Flagship Smartphone SoCs Are Overkill For Many Apps

AH OnePlus 9 KL image 1
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OnePlus recently confirmed that it deliberately throttles the performance of its latest flagships, the OnePlus 9 series, while using certain apps to improve battery life and heat management. The company said it reduces the devices’ performance in many of the most popular apps so they aren’t consuming more power than required. Reiterating that statement, the Chinese brand has now provided a more in-depth explanation of the whole controversy.

In a forum post on Monday, OnePlus suggested smartphone SoCs are now being too good at their job. So much so that their power is “often overkill” in certain scenarios. Many apps including “social media, browsers, and even some light gaming” don’t need the CPUs to be running at full speed to provide the best performance to users. For example, browsing the internet or scrolling through your social media feed doesn’t require the maximum power of flagships chipsets.

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor, which powers the OnePlus 9 series, has its super-powerful Cortex X1 CPU core operating at up to 2.84GHz. OnePlus suggests that’s too much power for most basic works the phones do. As such, the company reduces the CPU frequency in certain scenarios to reduce power consumption. This also helps in heat dissipation, while the user experience remains unaffected.

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OnePlus actually maintains a list of apps that it throttles because they work just as fine even on lowered CPU frequency. These include Google Chrome, Twitter, Zoom, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, Discord, Microsoft Office, and the company’s own apps. The company says these apps have been selected for throttling after internal tests showed that reduced CPU performance doesn’t negatively affect the user experience.

“We want to match each app with the most appropriate performance it needs,” OnePlus said in the forum post.

The argument is reasonable but OnePlus is still wrong in the decision to throttle apps

OnePlus’ argument supporting its decision to throttle certain apps sounds quite reasonable. However, it still may not be the wisest of decisions from the company. Firstly, it is settling for the optimum performance when its own tagline says “Never Settle”. Of course, that’s just for the saying. More importantly, AnandTech’s discovery had shown that there’s hardly any battery gain from all this. The gain was so marginal that it would not make any difference to the user.

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Even if there was any significant battery gain, it just doesn’t feel right if an OEM deliberately reduces the performance of a device that consumers have paid for. Granted these actions may not have affected the user experience. However, it also shows that companies can do so whenever they want. We all know how Apple slowed down older iPhones in the name of saving the battery. The move forced many people to upgrade their phones earlier than they probably needed to.

Perhaps OnePlus could have told customers about its actions and made this behavior optional. It could turn the throttling feature on by default but gave users the option to disable it, with a battery life warning. We will have to wait and see if the company makes any changes to this behavior in the coming times.