Cheetah Mobile has earned a reputation as a dishonest, destructive Android development studio that occasionally buys up successful apps and turns them into data-collecting, IAP-infested cash machines. The company has also clashed with Play Store policies more than once, but it always managed to find its way back onto the platform. Now it looks like Cheetah Mobile is getting tired of this game and has decided to take its business off the Store altogether.
When you visit any of the company’s developer sites (there are surprisingly many!) on the Play Store, you’ll see that all of its apps have disappeared except for a few keyboard themes. Only a short description of the business is left in most accounts. Cheetah Mobile’s website hints that something big might be up: In the past, the company linked to the Play Store to let you download applications, but now all of its apps are available as APKs, accompanied by a banner that states: “Official Notice: You can install the latest version of the app by clicking ‘Download APK.’ Please allow permissions if there are security reminders.”
Cheetah’s website has done away with Play Store links entirely.
We’re not entirely sure if Cheetah Mobile has decided to leave the Play Store voluntarily or if it was pushed out by Google — both options are equally likely thanks to the developer’s history of ad frauds. Either way, downloading these apps outside of the Play Store is probably even more dangerous than getting them from the platform, as you won’t enjoy the same level of protection from frauds or malware. (Google’s Play Protect scanner does work on sideloaded APKs, but it doesn’t offer the same multi-layered security as the Play Store or APKs taken straight from it do.)
Searching the Play Store for the company’s initials, “cm,” “cmcm,” or similar, still surfaces many results, though. You can find a CMM Launcher INC that offers eerily familiar products or some “CM Transfer” app that looks so similar to Cheetah Mobile’s products you could wonder if it’s involved in the development. Many of these new accounts have started to show up during the last few months and have already amassed thousands of installs.
Maybe the company is trying to obscure which apps it deploys, like it did when it published a few listings under Leopard Mobile a year ago, but it’s also possible other people are trying to ride on CM’s bandwagon and want to use its (granted, questionable) brand to get downloads.
Whatever the cause of the exodus, we can only hope that it stays that way and that the withdrawal from the Play Store will lead to fewer uninformed users falling for the company’s business practices.