OnePlus Throttled Hundreds of Apps to Preserve Battery Life

Written by Bill Toulas
Last updated July 14, 2021

After AnandTech noticed that its OnePlus 9 test device wasn’t performing as it should, considering that it runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888, it carried out benchmark tests and figured that some kind of throttling had been silently introduced via an update in April 2021. The company was quick to admit it had to make a decision between better battery life and uncompromising performance and shared the following statement on XDA:

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.

So, what OnePlus says here is that the Snapdragon 888 is so powerful that throttling it by a tiny bit wouldn’t make any practical difference for the users. Still, it would significantly increase the battery life of the device. Sure, this “optimization” would be obvious on benchmarks, but the performance drop would be negligible in most real-life use case scenarios.

This is highly problematic because consumer protection agencies can potentially base actions of customer deception against OnePlus. The throttling came after an initial period of tech reviews that flooded the net, so people have ended up getting something inferior. Even if the firm’s intention was to actually improve the user experience, many consumers might claim that performance is more important than battery life for them specifically.

Apple is still paying fines and settlements its 2017 throttling decision, and that was about very old devices. OnePlus should have been more open about what the April 2021 patch would incur, at least giving users a choice. For now, the smartphone maker hasn’t clarified whether they're planning to bring back performance to normal levels on the next update or if things will be kept as they are. However, the move was a fiasco, and many owners of the OnePlus 9 are already complaining on social media.

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