That’s why Android manufacturers limit the performance of the phone

As consumers, we have a bad taste in our mouths when we feel that something is being “choked”. This usually means that telecom companies are limiting our data and ruining our online experience. It also means that not-so-unlimited data plans get capped when you exceed a certain amount of data in a month. Throttling practices like these are widely denounced as unfair and annoying.

However, there are other types of limitations, and from a developer’s point of view, they sometimes make sense. One type that Android users may run into is called app throttling, which can affect the performance of everyday apps on your phone. We know it sounds bad, but manufacturers like Samsung have adopted it as a common practice on their end. Our guide explains what’s going on.

What is App Limiting?

Row of app icons at the bottom of your Samsung phone.

App throttling occurs when manufacturers choose specific apps and change how those apps interact with the CPU and GPU on their phones. Manufacturers limit these apps to reduce the amount of resources they can draw from the phone’s hardware.

If an app is suddenly throttled, it may start running slower. You may notice longer load times for app activity. If you’re playing games, you’ll likely run into framerate issues and stutter more often. If an app has always been limited on your phone, it will likely run slower than similar apps or things will take longer than if you use the app on similar devices.

This kind of app throttling isn’t just a theory. Korean data miners and performance hounds discovered in 2022 that Samsung has restricted more than 10,000 apps, not just for their latest phones, but dating back several generations. Samsung admitted that this was the case, that it had no plans to stop doing it, and that there was nothing users could do to stop it. OnePlus has been found doing the same thing with their phones. Targeted apps included Netflix, Office Suite, TikTok, and more. Users who learned about it were left unhappy, especially mobile gamers, who found that the “optimization” services were essentially de-optimizing their gaming apps.

Top reasons why apps are limited

Separate Samsung phone pieces, focusing on the battery component.

So why should manufacturers restrict your apps, especially gaming apps? The reasons can be roughly divided into “cool” and “uncool”. Let’s start with the cool reasons first and work through the list so you can see what’s going on.

Keep the heat low

Demanding apps, especially apps that display a lot of videos or apps that need a lot of power to run games, are constantly drawing on resources when they’re active. This makes your phone’s CPU and GPU work harder, producing more heat. Heat is the kryptonite of all computing devices. Increased heat slows down performance, damages hardware, damages permanent battery capacity, and causes crashes.

Manufacturers, well aware of the dangers that frequent high heat can cause, choose specific apps that eat up large resources and limit how much they can take. This prevents heat levels from getting too high, saving wear and tear on your phone. And, to be fair, this standard is enforced the same way. Samsung has also limited some of its apps to keep the heat down.

Save on battery life

When apps use less power, they consume less battery life. And battery life matters to consumers, regularly registering as a top priority for shoppers. As a result, manufacturers try all sorts of little tricks to help save battery life and improve battery performance. As it turns out, one trick that works well is to limit what high-demand apps can do. So app limiting has become a battery saving solution and can be implemented or tweaked through OS updates on your phone.

Prioritize the most important features

Apps that consume a lot of CPU and battery power tend to be primarily entertainment oriented, such as streaming apps or games. But your phone has many essential functions that deserve higher priority when it comes to resources. This includes pre-installed apps that manage files, security apps, and operating system software that controls your interface.

There are several ways manufacturers prioritize the features that need them most. One way is to limit unnecessary apps to free up more resources for processes that need those resources.

Cheating in benchmark tests

If you care about performance and make sure your phone is a significant upgrade over your previous model, app throttling probably infuriates you. That’s because companies like Samsung can release app benchmarks that aren’t limited to show performance, but with a hidden caveat that says, “Not all of your apps are going to perform that well, and the more demanding the app, the more likely it isn’t.” is able to reach the limits of what our new hardware can do.”

For many, it seems like cheating. Companies are posting grades that many of their apps can’t achieve even under optimal conditions. Benchmarking sites are still struggling with how to respond to this, and some are even banning phone models known to limit apps.

Increase the value of an annual update

There are also long-term systemic concerns about app throttling and what it says about manufacturers trying to get consumers to buy new models. It’s in a brand’s interest to make the New Year’s model look so good, so much of an improvement, that buyers absolutely need to get it. This locks people into an ongoing cycle of buying new phones (which might not be great for their finances) and keeps earnings reports nice for shareholders. And, if companies have to limit apps to maintain this appearance of constant and massive improvements, they will, even if it’s not a healthy prospect.

And what about CPU throttling?

Status indicator for Samsung phone performance.

CPU throttling is another term for app throttling that focuses on CPU hardware and benchmarking. It’s another way of looking at app throttling, but the practice is the same.

Performance throttling is here to stay

Restricting apps isn’t going anywhere. And while we’re not sure how many manufacturers are doing this or to what extent, it seems to be a fairly common practice. After all, most phone users either don’t notice the throttling’s effects or don’t care when they hear about it, especially if they get better battery life out of the deal.

If you want to boost the performance of an app, cell phones aren’t your best bet. For example, players might want to turn to something like Steam Deck. If you depend on a demanding app for work or serious recreation, you might want to research it or ask benchmarking forums about which phone would work best to avoid throttling.

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