The spec race is distracting tech companies from their true goal: real innovation

In the rush to look good on paper manufacturers are losing sight of what’s important, says Sam Kieldsen
Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Tech companies are never shy about talking up how innovative they are, but increasingly it seems that true innovation is taking a backseat to pointless – or even damaging – specification willy-waving.

This week it emerged that every Android manufacturer – bar Google and Motorola – has been optimising their devices to automatically boost performance during popular benchmarking apps. So, for example, while the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 may use the same 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chip as the LG G2, in benchmarking tests it appears to be 20 percent more powerful. In real world use, that boost isn’t happening and performance between the two phones is near-identical.

Shady shenanigans – and wasteful

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

What’s the best that you can say about these sorts of shenanigans? While the companies involved in this benchmarking arms race could claim to be doing its duty to shareholders by portraying their phones as more powerful than rivals in order to boost sales, it’s simply dishonest behaviour. It’s anti-consumer, in fact.

And yet the likes of HTC and Samsung (which has been caught pulling the same stunt before with the Galaxy S3) evidently feel that cooking up this creepy form of manipulation is a perfectly appropriate way for its engineers to spend their time. I suspect those man hours might have been better used working on improvements to the phone’s UI or battery performance. Neither of these things are bad (in fact the Note 3 is an excellent phone that Stuff awarded a full five stars, making this kind of underhanded behaviour all the more frustrating) but tech can always be improved when a company focuses its resources in the right places.