Samsung released the Galaxy S22 family last week, and the early response has been good. The more technical among Samsung’s fans have noted something troubling, though. The phones use a “Game Optimizing Service” almost constantly to throttle apps — if you can think of an app, it’s probably throttled. The lone exception is benchmark apps, which run at full speed. It’s not quite benchmark cheating, but it’s misleading when the fancy chipset inside can’t run at full speed.
Following the release of the S22, users of a Korean message board noticed wildly different benchmark scores when a benchmark app was renamed. An app like Geekbench gets the full power of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 (or Exynos 2200 internationally), but if the phone doesn’t know it’s Geekbench, it treats it like any other app and lowers the chip’s performance. It’s similar to the way ISPs will favor speed testing sites, showing you the best possible numbers even if your connection to other destinations is constrained or throttled.
John Poole, the lead dev behind Geekbench, used a modified app package that made his benchmark identify itself as a popular game called Genshin Impact. Performance immediately sank. Testing has shown the performance hit to be between 15 and 45 percent, which can be the difference between an app opening smoothly or hanging mid-animation. This is similar to what we saw with OnePlus phones last year, so Samsung is not alone in making this mistake.
I will say, however, I have been testing the S22 Ultra for several weeks, and it doesn’t strike me as a slow phone. On the contrary, it’s one of the most reliably responsive Android phones you can buy right now. Could it be even faster? Well, that’s not a certainty. Today’s mobile chipsets are incredibly powerful, packed with multiple CPU and GPU cores, co-processors, 5G radios, and more. As a result, they get pretty hot — Samsung reportedly delayed introducing the new Exynos chip because of heat issues. Samsung might be keeping the chip at a more sustainable level of performance with throttling. This is not unique to the latest phone, though. The same throttling behavior has been detected on Samsung’s flagship phones going all the way back to the Galaxy S10.
Maybe the average user wants this, but that doesn’t mean it should be the default for almost all apps. Even Samsung’s own apps like the Galaxy Store, Samsung Pay, and the home screen are throttled by the optimizations service. Samsung does have some performance settings buried deep down in the battery settings, but they don’t affect the game optimizer.