Samsung: fake benchmarks, flawed promises from the 'anti-Apple'

If you happen to own a Samsung Galaxy S4 Active, then please don't believe the benchmark figures -- and don't, whatever you do, put it in water just because the company promises that you can, as it won't be covered by warranty. The anti-Apple seems to have left its ethics behind.

[ABOVE: Look, it's a Samsung Active phone being put underwater to show off its Aqua mode. Be careful if you try it, as it isn't guaranteed.]

Satisfaction not guaranteed

You see, when the S4 Active was announced in London earlier this year, Samsung did everything it could to point out how durable this model of the phone might be. Indeed, journalists who attended that event (including Anton Nagy) tell us:

"The key feature of the phone emphasized was its ability to take pictures under water. They even had a tank filled with water and S4 Active devices."

Here's a sample headline from when the device was launched: "Samsung Galaxy S4 Active: A Great Phone That Likes the Water" (Mashable).

This focus on water resistance is why it seems so odd that Samsung doesn't offer any guarantee that the device will not be damaged by exposure to "liquid, moisture, dampness".

Perhaps that doesn't mean too much, at least, not until you take a look at a post on the XDA Developer's forum (allegedly from an anonymous AT&T employee) which states: "This phone is not truly waterproof/resistant".

It adds: 

"So please listen to my warning. There are way too many people getting this phone damaged, including me, a fully trained AT&T employee who took the proper precautions before doing anything.

"Samsung should not be able to get away with calling this phone water resistant or water proof, and they should especially not include an Aqua Camera mode."

And if you do happen to decide to use your Active underwater in "Aqua" mode, and it should happen to go wrong, then don't expect the product to be covered by the warranty.

screen_shot_2013-07-22_at_18.26.35.png

[ABOVE: Samsung has even patented the phrase "Samsung Expo" as it moves to tackle Apple directly.]

Quality experiences

It could be that I'm being harsh to point this out. This could be nothing more than a case of a few defective units -- but that's not what everybody else is saying:

"It recently came to light on Reddit, along with customer reviews on Amazon and AT&T, that some early Active adopters were experiencing problems with the phone after using it underwater. Ordinarily this isn’t the type of complaint you hear from experienced smartphone users. After all, if you drop a standard Galaxy S 4 into the toilet, you stick it in a bag of rice, hope for the best, and move on if it doesn’t recover. Water damage is just one of the risks you’re willing to put up with when you buy a delicate device." GigaOm.

"There seems to be something profoundly wrong with encouraging underwater photography while simultaneously denying liability if things go wrong after users actually take advantage of the feature. When you give people a false sense of security, bad experiences are inevitable." VentureBeat.

Don't trust the benchmarks

Unfortunately this isn't the only instance in which Samsung has attempted to affect consumer expectation of its products.

Respected technology Website, Anantech, has confirmed that Samsung has placed software inside its Galaxy S4 that serves to increase processor clock speed only when the device is being put through certain benchmark tests.

In other words, the speed the benchmarks show is not the actual working speed of the chip, but an adjusted speed designed to kick into gear only when that product's being bench tested. It isn't designed to help make the product better to use but simply to deliver enhanced benchmark results.

I recognize such manipulation of results was at one time seen within the PC industry. It didn't serve customers then and will not serve customers now. At the end of the day, this point is way beyond petty platform politics, but entirely focused on the needs of hard working people attempting to make good decisions on what to buy.

It is my opinion that such deliberate manipulation of benchmark tests goes against the interests of consumers. But this isn't just my opinion: A lot of people agree.

Samsung has attempted to deny the claims -- while saying they were true, the company claimed the trick was to ensure customers didn't encounter faults. I wonder how that works?

screen_shot_2013-07-31_at_14.09.54.png

[ABOVE: An Apple retail store, sales from which were ignored in Japan tablet market share figures from BCN.]

Out of the Google-plex

It isn't just Samsung that likes to stretch reality. Take the recent claims that the Nexus 7 outsold the iPad in Japan in Q4 2012. These claims were widely reported -- but inaccurate.

Despite their being inaccurate, Google apparently chose to repeat these claims (grabbed from BCN) at its Nexus 7 Reboot event earlier this month (yes, according to anecdotal evidence which I have attempted to verify). Yet these claims don't match the results of other major surveys, and represent a skewed sample group that doesn't marry well to the true retail picture in Japan. (There's an explanation as to how and why these claims are unrealistic right here).

It's impossible to be certain Google knew these claims were flawed, but given the world's biggest search engine could simply search the Internet to find contrary reports, it does seem strange.

Indeed, cast your eyes over at CNN this morning and you'll find a fairly savage indictment of Google's practise of basically failing to Google-check its own claims.

You can argue that this is all about competition in the smartphone sector between Apple's allies and the axis of Android.

You could argue this, but it becomes increasingly clear that the Mac and iDevice maker faces enemies who, it seems, will stop at nothing in order to prevail. And with Steve Jobs gone, it seems that it is the Android army that is choosing to go "thermonuclear" in this campaign.

However, there's no way it can be argued that misrepresenting statistics, tweaking benchmark figures or misleading product advertising should be seen as being good for consumers.

The sad reality is that as the smartphone wars continue to grow dirtier, it is consumers, and not corporations, who stand to suffer the most.

Surely it's in the interests of partisans on all platforms to demand they be told the truth?

Got a story? Drop me a line via Twitter or in comments below and let me know. I'd like it if you chose to follow me on Twitter so I can let you know when these items are published here first on Computerworld.

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