Samsung removes the benchmark gaming code from its KitKat builds

Daniel Bader

March 5, 2014 12:12pm

Last year, it came to light that Samsung (along with a number of other OEMs) added surreptitious code to its Android builds to derive better results from a handful of benchmark apps, like AnTuTu and Geekbench.

While the “cheating” was nothing more than clocking the CPU and GPU to their maximum respective speeds, it was deemed deceptive because the company didn’t acknowledged the app “whitelist” — a list of benchmarks that, when opened, would trigger the processors to ramp up to their maximum clocks. Instead, as quickly as it was added in their Android 4.3 builds, it was removed in the upcoming Android 4.4 software.

Ars Technica worked with a security company to confirm that Samsung had removed the offending code in its latest build, lowering the scores somewhat but putting it once again on even ground with other OEMs. HTC and a few other OEMs were discovered to have similar code, but Samsung’s implementation was the most offensive.

We’re hearing that the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Note 3 KitKat update is coming in the next few weeks, so stay tuned.

  • Striker67

    Have they also removed the setting I am starting to hear about which restricts the use of the external SD card.

    • Brian Klippel

      Well, in short, it’s not a setting and I doubt it will ever go back to the way it was. In all builds between 3.0 *when the security change was actually made) and 4.3 on Samsung devices, they have included a permission override (granting all apps more permission than they are intended to have). Starting with 4.4, they have agreed to stop overriding that permission. Google intended the permissions on a removable SD card to be somewhat restricted in order to keep app data neatly collected within their own special app folders (which also exist on the external). This is so that app data can be properly cleaned up when an app is uninstalled, and so that the data on the SD card can be kept a bit more stable and secure when removed.

    • Striker67

      Agreed, but the unrestricted use of the external SD was a main bone of contention between Apple and Android camps as a reason to switch to android. From what I am reading you will no longer be able to store pictures or change files on the external SD .IF that is the case and apps are the only ones allowed to use the external sd on your phone then why have it?

    • Brian Klippel

      I might be mistaken, but I believe that you can still store pictures, music, etc on the SD but they need to be in the right location and apps that manipulate them need to update to use the right APIs. The main point of contention seems to be file manager apps, where most users want them to be able to perform cross directory operations on the SD instead of needing to plug the phone into a computer. That’s the issue that burrs me as well, It seems Google only half fixed the problem. I root, so I’ll just change my default mount permissions when I get around to upgrading my S4, but that doesn’t really help the general landscape. Apple nuts will still be laughing at Android’s crippled SD cards and saying “Steve was right”.

  • Ryan

    How is it cheating if it just ramps it to its stock capabilities, I’d prefer that over a throttled benchmark

    • alphs22

      Because it can only stay on those “stock” capabilities for limited time periods.

      For regular use and playing games they wouldn’t clock as high. The benchmarks were made to fairly compare phone models for normal use, not this. There is a reason Futuremark delisted them.

  • Rich

    Have they also stopped paying people to positively review/hype their products?

    • Brad Fortin

      Have they also stopped destroying vital evidence in legal cases? Have they stopped controlling how the media reports on it in its home country?

  • Stuntman06

    Samsung removes the part of the code that said, “Benchmark Booster.” :-)

  • Nadefrenzy

    So much Samsung hate lol. People sure are envious. Ironically many of these same critics are also Apple fans.

  • xavierR

    I’m getting tired of samsung… giving “cheated specs” of their devices and mostly to take forever to bring their updates out …