How it works
"We work with over 100 manufacturers today, including Samsung, Sony, HTC, Acer, Asus, Huawei, ZTE, … all the major brands you can imagine," says David Wu, president of Leopard Mobile, partner of Cheetah Mobile marketing. According to David, Clean Master is the 5th most popular app in the Android world – only Facebook, Instagram, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp have more downloads (all from the Facebook family).
How is there so much manufacturer support for an app that doesn't work? As hard as it sounds, we were looking for tangible proof of Clean Master's capabilities. To help me with this, Mr. Wu, Regina Lin, who works in the Leopard Mobile Global Brand Communications area, and Kangzong Zhang, Cheetah Mobile's Director of Research and Development, were present.
Mr. Zhang participated by telephone from Beijing, while Mrs. Lin and Mr. Wu translated for me. Despite language barriers and connection problems, the team was very patient in understanding and answering my questions.
For those who don't know, Random Access Memory (RAM) is a limited storage space where the contents of an application are temporarily loaded for quick access. RAM wipe apps, such as Clean Master, are theoretically capable of manually or automatically wiping or managing phone RAM to increase device speed (although this is just one of several Clean Master functions).
This is the basic idea behind these apps; however, many say that Android already manages RAM effectively, making these apps unhealthy.
Asked how the Clean Master performance boost works, Mr. Zhang replied (with Mr. Wu's translation): "On Android, the system will not clean up processes until it is warned that it will fail. Then the system engine starts. Clean Master cleans processes all the time. If you kill (a process) it reactivates – then we proactively monitor the process that causes problems. "
In other words, Clean Master is better at managing background processes than the Android system. I asked Mr. Wu if he could show me this improvement on my phone. He installed the Facebook app and showed me how it works before and after using Clean Master's performance enhancement. I noticed no difference and said that the app worked at the same speed as before.
"If you play several games and uses YouTube at the same time, keeping all these processes cumbersome, and decides to use chat from Facebook … use Clean Master and then chat on chat; the whole experience will be much more relaxed, "said Mr. Wu.
The recent apps menu
Mr Wu said that with Clean Master, it is not necessary to manually remove items from the recent application menu because Clean Master does something similar but more efficient. Personally, I don't think it is necessary to remove menu items; I told Mr. Wu that already loaded apps open faster.
"But it is necessary to clean (these processes), otherwise you will be accumulating, as in the RAM of a PC. It would not be possible to have 30 windows open," he replied.
This may be true for browser tabs on PC systems; even more true for Chrome tabs for Android. However, I never clean apps from this menu, just as I never delete cache data manually (unless to fix an unusual app error or bug). Until Mr. Wu does it on my cell phone, it had never been done.
Had not cleared the recent apps menu in over a year
"Probably why your phone is slow," he said. It doesn't seem slow to me.
In the end, Mr. Wu said it's a matter of habit: He closes processes on his PC and does the same on his phone. I asked if "users who do a lot multitasking"are more likely to benefit from Clean Master than those who use few apps simultaneously. He agreed.
Overheating and alarmism
In addition to performance issues, there are several other aspects of Clean Master that I wanted to investigate. The CPU Cooler function worried me. Clean Master claims it can cool your smartphone to prevent processor overheating. Said that modern smartphones do not overheat (with some exceptions) and that this function was unnecessary.
David said she is there so users can view the RAM cleanup process, but "some OEMs have asked to turn it off," adding, "you have a right to complain."
Then I discussed some of the Clean Master security notifications. The app warned me about "money loss" and recommended that I install CM Security app (another Cheetah Mobile app) to fix it. At-risk apps include Chrome, for example, and other seemingly safe apps.
Con artists often target emails and websites; that is, these spaces are not risk free. However, I believe that suggesting that Clean Master can solve this is unnecessary: we can keep ourselves safe online alone. I asked how Cheetah Mobile responds to its criticism of alarmism.
"You have a right to complain," David Wu said of the Clean Master's cooling function.
"You can turn off (these notifications), but as long as something has a security or privacy risk … Clean Master has a responsibility to warn the user," Mr. Wu said. However, he told me that some manufacturers have asked them to disable this function, as it would give the impression that the devices come with security problems in the factory. "Samsung complained, HTC complained," said Mr Wu; "It's a valid question."
Finally, I reiterated my concerns about the app and asked if it could be changed to please users more. CM Lite was also cited for giving users only the "main functions".
There is a Clean Master function that seems to work: open games. I tested the function after the interview, and one game which previously took 25 seconds to open with the Accelerate Games function, was ready in 21 seconds. I did this test many times.
Clean Master may be nice for some specific types of users: for example, if you have a lot of games, or like to clean RAM and processes regularly (whether it is necessary or not).
Are Clean Master safety warnings required? Do we need the CPU cooling function? Will it make your phone noticeably faster? No, I don't think so. But 660 million people and 100 manufacturers seem to disagree with me.
Do you use Clean Master? Leave in your comments your opinion about the app.
(tagsToTranslate) cheetah-mobile (t) clean-master (t) android (t) app (t) usage (t) interview (t) bloatware