A proposed class action alleges Samsung Electronics America has misled both reviewers and the general public with regard to the speed, battery life and overall performance of certain Galaxy smartphones.
The 40-page lawsuit contends that Samsung has secretly programmed the devices – which are touted as having better performance and longer battery life – to cheat performance-measuring “benchmark” apps, creating the false perception that the products actually perform as well and last as long as advertised.
According to the suit, Samsung has loaded a processor-throttling “game optimizing service” app (GOS) onto its S10, S20, S21 and S22 smartphones, including the FE, Ultra and Plus versions, that slows down the phones in real-world situations but allows them to perform at “faster than normal speeds” when certain performance-measuring “benchmark” apps are detected.
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The complaint, filed in New Jersey on March 11, specifies that Samsung artificially boosts the smartphones’ performance when benchmarking apps are run because tech publications and review websites regularly use these apps to evaluate new devices and compare them to those of competitors or predecessor products.
In reality, however, the processors in certain Samsung smartphones run at a lower speed when the devices are handling real-world tasks as opposed to benchmark tests, the complaint alleges. As the case tells it, Samsung’s alleged throttling of certain smartphones was intended to address the discrepancy between what the devices’ batteries are capable of delivering and the demands placed upon them by the manufacturer’s hardware and software.
The lawsuit charges that Samsung has intentionally gamed the processing power of a number of its devices to not only remain competitive but to increase consumer demand and command higher prices for its products.
“Samsung intentionally cheated on benchmarking apps to create a false perception regarding the speed and performance of the Devices, to thereby increase the demand for its new devices, and to support a high price-point for these devices—all to the detriment of the buying public,” the suit alleges.
On March 15, Samsung CEO JH Han apologized to shareholders as controversy swelled over the company’s apparent throttling of the Galaxy S22 by way of the preinstalled GOS app.
Which Samsung smartphones’ performance has allegedly been throttled?
According to the lawsuit, the following models are affected by the throttling issue:
Samsung Galaxy S10; Samsung Galaxy S10+; Samsung Galaxy S10e; Samsung Galaxy S20; Samsung Galaxy S20+; Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra; Samsung Galaxy S21; Samsung Galaxy S21+; Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra; Samsung Galaxy S21 FE; Samsung Galaxy S22; Samsung Galaxy S22+; and Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra.
Samsung, the case says, has programmed the above-listed smartphones to limit access to their fastest processing cores during typical use, which causes a slowdown during, say, web browsing and gaming. In turn, Samsung has been able to advertise that the devices are able to achieve higher speeds and performance while maintaining sufficient battery life, the suit claims.
The case says that how the GOS apps got onto the smartphones—that is, whether the app was pre-installed, available for voluntary download or included as an update—more than likely varies depending on the generation of the particular device.
What are benchmark apps, exactly?
The case defines “benchmark” apps as programs for smartphones and tablets that run a set of standardized tests and trials to assess a device’s overall performance. By design, the suit says, running a benchmark app on different devices allows a person to assess the relative performance of each product, and those that complete the tests quickly receive higher scores than slower devices, the complaint explains.
Benchmark test results for the Samsung products are “useless for the user’s experience,” however, given the company’s performance throttling of the phones during real-life use, the complaint argues.
According to the lawsuit, some Samsung users have performed their own tests to identify how far the company’s alleged performance throttling actually goes, including by simply renaming a particular benchmark testing app. In one test, the lawsuit relays, a YouTube user modified the name of one benchmark testing app to an app known to have been subject to Samsung’s throttling and showed viewers that the renamed app (pictured left) achieved a “drastically lower benchmark score and average framerate”:
Days later, Samsung’s “benchmark manipulation scam” was exposed on Twitter, the case says, when a list was published that contained 10,000 apps—including YouTube, Disney+, Instagram, SnapChat, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, TikTok and Microsoft Office apps—apparently subject to Samsung’s throttling.
“Noticeably absent from the list are benchmarking apps, including 3DMark, GeekBench, PCMark, GFXBench, Antutu, CPDT, and Androbench,” the complaint reads.
The complaint states that in response to the burgeoning throttling controversy, Samsung issued on March 4 an “apology” in which the company claimed that the GOS app was designed to help game apps achieve great performance while effectively managing device temperature and that the app does not manage the performance of non-gaming apps. The company also noted that it planned to roll out a software update that would allow users to have more control over the throttling of their devices, the suit says.
Who’s covered by this lawsuit?
The lawsuit looks to cover all individuals and entities in the United States who bought a Samsung device containing the game optimizing service app.
My Samsung smartphone lags. Can I join the class action?
For the most part, there’s nothing you need to do to join or ensure that you’re included in a class action lawsuit when it is initially filed. If the suit proceeds, it’s only if and when a settlement is reached that the people who are covered, the “class members,” will need to act. This typically involves submitting a claim form online or by mail.
Class action lawsuits generally take some time, however, to work their way through the legal process, usually toward a settlement, dismissal or arbitration outside of court. If you own one of the Samsung smartphones listed on this page, or just want to stay in the loop on class action news, sign up for ClassAction.org’s free weekly newsletter.