Image depicting the impact of the EU's Digital Markets Act on tech giants one month after implementation.

The Digital Markets Act: What a Difference a Month Makes

Article by AVOW CEO & Co-Founder Robert Wildner

It’s been just over a month since the European Union’s (EU) landmark Digital Markets Act (DMA) launched. As of March 6, this pivotal moment forced Google and Apple to allow their customers to download alternative app stores onto Android and iOS. What’s more, they’re now obligated to give users the decision over which apps come preloaded on their new smartphones too. So how have things gone in the last few weeks?

As the founder of an app growth company whose specialism is mobile OEM advertising, I’ve naturally kept an eye on the subject. While I admire these big industry leaders, I’ve long thought their dominance is a monopoly—and now the EU agrees. What I’ve subsequently seen in the last month has been promising, if not uncomplicatedly so. On the other hand, I’ve also read a range of perspectives that have challenged me too. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how the DMA is going one month in.

Image depicting the impact of the EU's Digital Markets Act on tech giants one month after implementation.

No Comply: Are Google and Apple trying to undermine the EU?


As The Verge reports, the European Commission (EC) is already investigating Apple and Google for DMA noncompliance. 

In total, the EC will conduct five inquiries examining, among other things: the implementation of anti steering rules in the two tech giant’s app stores; Google’s ability to self-preference its services via its search engine, and the efficacy of Apple’s browser choice screen. It will also look at the iPhone manufacturer’s new developer terms, which, as TechCrunch reports, include requirements for developers to pay 50 cents (EUR) per fresh installation after 1 million such downloads—not to mention commision rates.

Some, like Spotify CEO Daniel Ek, might argue that it’s not an ideal start for the EU legislation. But doesn’t it in fact show that the EC is taking things seriously? Even the DMA’s critics, such as Lazar Radic from Portland’s International Center for Law and Economics acknowledge that the law isn’t “self-executing.” So let’s not forget that the DMA is unprecedented. Like any new legislation, of course there are going to be teething problems in its execution. But we’ll only discover what they might be by testing it. 


Spotify, Fortnite, and Opera bask in the DMA’s Glory


As spring arrives, so do the first fruits of the DMA. And as per the Verge, Spotify is planning on taking advantage of the new legislation, which allows it to advertise its full range of subscriptions using links to its own website within Apple’s App Store itself. Previously this hadn’t been possible, as Apple had both limited subscription offers for services rivaling its Music streaming platform, as well as blocked out-of-app links. Although Spotify has so far only submitted an application to do so with the App Store, it’s a promising step. 

What’s more, two days before the DMA launcheda 5-year antitrust investigation by the EC, which was sparked by a complaint by Spotify on this very issue, concluded by fining Apple 1.8 billion Euros. Who says nothing ever changes?

Elsewhere, there’s been more good news. Following the DMA’s launch, Apple has relented in its battle with Fortnite developer Epic, paving the way for the return of the long-running, multimode online videogame to the App Store. Moreover, the DMA’s rules allowing users to choose which essential apps they’d like to use when booting up new smartphones have already been game-changing. Only two weeks after the DMA came into force, the mobile web browser Opera, originally founded in Norway, has reported a 168 percent increase in iOS downloads. And in France alone, iOS installations of the browser increased 402 percent, while Android downloads boomed by 54 percent. 

As such, while there might still be a few grey clouds on the horizon, the future for the DMA is looking bright.


Go West: DMA-style legislation heads to the USA


Over the pond, similar changes are afoot. Last month, the Department of Justice filed an antitrust suit against Apple for restricting access to its software and hardware, thereby preventing competition. As a result, the possibility of DMA-style legislation has become a hot topic among commentators, especially naysayers.  

On the one hand, some people, such as Yahoo Finance’s Grace Kay, are anxious that DMA-style legislation in America could mean that iPhone users enjoy less privacy, more spyware, and a less enjoyable user-experience. By allowing more options on the App Store, she reasons, the gates could open to a greater number of bug-ridden apps. On the other hand, Kati Suominen from the Center for Strategic and International Studies argues that the DMA disproportionately targets US companies, and that the supposed additional cost it entails will be passed onto consumers. 

While both compellingly written, I must take issue with aspects of these articles. Firstly, the likelihood of Apple making an inferior and less secure product just because the company must now allow fair competition seems like scaremongering. Indeed, while there will hopefully soon be a greater number of apps available on the App Store, the idea that Apple will allow harmful services into its ecosystem seems far-fetched too.  Secondly, and contrary to Suominen’s otherwise skilfully composed argument, the logic that giving consumers more choice will mean that the services apps provide will become more expensive seems similarly flawed. More competition for the same audience will inevitably mean more competitive pricing—not less. Indeed, for that matter, there’s also a good reason why the EU has targeted Apple and Google, and it has nothing to do with their postcodes.

So that’s it for the DMA’s first month in action. AVOW will continue to keep an eye on the topic, so stay tuned.


If you're interested in how these changes might affect your mobile app growth strategy, then book a free consultation with AVOW's experts today! We can help you navigate the new regulations with mobile OEM advertising and ensure your app reaches the right audience.

From Control to Choice: The Story of the DMA So Far..

From Control to Choice: The Digital Markets Act (DMA) and the Story So Far

As the clock is ticking in Europe for tech’s biggest players to loosen their grip on the industry, AVOW CEO Robert Wildner reflects on the historical precedents of monopolies that have led to the European Union's enactment of the landmark Digital Markets Act (DMA).


From Control to Choice: The Story of the DMA So Far..


“Are you getting it yet?” Steve Jobs’s words at the iPhone’s 2007 unveiling have gone down in history, but their real significance is still overlooked. When smartphones arrived in the late-2000s, they were intended to liberate consumers, combining cell phones with the power of PCs. Two decades later, they’ve transformed society, yet their potential has been stymied. The culprits here are, ironically, the companies that sparked this revolution. Between them, Apple and Google’s app stores have dominated the market, charging developers high fees, preventing the availability of alternative app stores, and reducing consumer choice. Are you getting it yet?


The European Union (EU) has. In September 2023, its landmark Digital Markets Act (DMA) called time on this situation. Attempting to break up tech’s big players’ monopoly, it said that by March 2024, Apple and Google will be obligated to allow users to download alternative app stores on iOS and Android. What’s more, they’ll also have to allow consumers to choose the default apps on new smartphones. At last, people might start to get it.


When we founded AVOW in 2018—a company dedicated to supporting mobile brands outside the mainstream with smart, sophisticated marketing—we did so because of our belief that mobile OEMs and alternative app stores are the future as they offer people choice. And as a result of the EU’s decision, that future now looks brighter than ever. But how did we get here? As a new era in smartphones and apps begins, let’s examine the history. 


Monopolies: Bringing It All Back Home, Again


Monopolies are nothing new. As modern commerce began to expand in the 18th century, people such as the English economist Adam Smith were already railing against them. “The freer and more general the competition” of commercial entities, Smith inveighed in The Wealth of Nations (1786), the more societies are able to avail themselves of the “advantageous” perks of competitive trade. 


In the 19th century, governments began clamping down. In the UK, the 1846 Corn Laws tackled agricultural monopolies, while the US’s 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act had a much broader remit. Since it was passed, it has been used to challenge illiberal commercial practices by, among others, Standard Oil, American Tobacco, and, as recently as 1982, the American Telephone & Telegraph Company (now the AT&T Corporation). That year, the legislation was also used against IBM by the Department of Justice. Although the case was dropped, the scrutiny of this 13-year investigation had a lasting effect on its business. 


Prior to the DMA, the situation in the tech world resembled the one Smith decried. Since the first smartphones and app stores flooded the market after 2008, a small number of companies have assumed control of the business. In the US, Apple commands 61% of the smartphone market, while globally, Android accounts for 72% of all operating systems (and the rest are nearly all iOS).  Simply put, that’s a lot of people that can’t easily access a plethora of useful and fun apps available on the burgeoning alternative app store ecosystem—until now. 


Europe Strikes Back (And So Does Business) 


Prior to the EU’s landmark legislation, challenges to these unfair commercial advantages were already afoot. In July 2018 and March 2019, the EU Commission (EC) fined Google €4.34 billion and €1.49 billion respectively for breaching anti-monopoly rules. Subsequently in July 2020, the EC ordered a public consultation on what would become the DMA, examining “issues that may require intervention at the EU level.” By Christmas, it was part of EU digital strategy. 


At the same time, rumblings across the pond were laying bare the extent of dissatisfaction in tech itself over this status quo. In August 2020, the video game studio Epic sued Apple and Google using Sherman antitrust legislation. Earlier that month, the mobile giants pulled Epic’s hugely popular Fortnite title from their app stores after the developer updated it with a direct payment option—another element these two trillion dollar companies tightly control. Last December, Epic won its case against Google, and although it lost its suit with Apple, the court ruled that Epic is allowed to promote its own payment options. 


Whether directly or indirectly related, all of this is part of the DMA’s background. After being adopted as an EU strategy, the legislation was officially proposed by the EC in July 2021, and became law on November 1st, 2022. Last September, the EU subsequently placed Alphabet (aka Google), Amazon, Apple, ByteDance, Meta, and Microsoft under special scrutiny to enable users the freedom to choose what services and software they wish to use. If by this March these companies haven’t met the expectations of the DMA, they could face proceedings. 


“More choice for consumers, fewer obstacles for smaller competitors: the DMA will open the gates to the Internet,” announced EU commissioner Thierry Breton. “It was high time that Europe set the rules of the game upfront to ensure digital markets are fair and open.”


The World Won’t Wait


Unsurprisingly, other countries are following suit. In 2021, South Korea passed legislation limiting Apple and Google’s control over app-store payments, and the following year, India's Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce proposed DMA-style regulations. Elsewhere, the UK government has tabled a “pro-competition” Digital Markets Bill, and in the United States, the US Senate is set to consider the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, both of which are comparable to the DMA. At the same, the iPhone manufacturer’s troubles continue to mount. 


Following an investigation into its app store practices by the EC that began in 2021, Apple conceded this January to give its rivals in Europe access to its contactless payment system. Moreover, at the same time as Apple announced that it would divide its app store in two in order to conform with the Digital Markets Act, the US Justice Department recently announced that it was in the final stages of another investigation against the company that could lead to an antitrust case.


The takeaway from this, however, isn’t that successful companies are bad. On the contrary, as Thierry Breton highlighted, it’s about consumer choice and allowing competition so that there can be more successful companies—not fewer. The world needs big brands. But it also needs smaller companies to achieve scale so that industry and technology can progress. Previously, this just wasn’t possible. But with the DMA’s support, hopefully this will now be the direction of travel elsewhere too. After all, if the EU can get it, why not the world?


AVOW: Leading the Charge in Mobile OEM Advertising in the DMA Era

As we embrace the transformative journey spurred by the Digital Markets Act, AVOW stands at the forefront, ready to navigate you through the evolving digital marketplace through mobile OEM advertising. Partner with AVOW to unleash the full potential of your mobile brand in this new era of openness and opportunity.



The truth about alternative app stores and mobile game monetization

The truth about alternative app stores and mobile game monetization

When marketing your mobile app it is important to be aware of the rules, regulations and monetization methods in place for getting featured across different app stores. However, this substantial requirement can often lead to myths and common misconceptions that actually prevent developers from leveraging lucrative alternative app stores. In this article we share the truth about OEM monetization and outline how they can be leveraged to reach your marketing company goals.

Can I leverage OEMs without adopting new billing solutions for my mobile game?

Many marketers avoid alternative app stores because they believe it is mandatory to adopt a unique billing solution for each OEM. This myth prevents many developers from leveraging OEM’s untapped markets.

This misconception occurs because implementing a billing solution can be a complex process for developers which rely on in-app revenue, such as companies wanting to upload their mobile games on several app stores. If they want to run Google Play they must ensure the billing snippet works for their game. However, there are solutions available for stores such as Samsung, Huawei and Xiaomi that integrate billing solutions so that developers can publish on these stores.

When working with OEMs, companies need to negotiate a revenue share agreement between publishers and the app store owners. This can be a default rate or percentage of in-app purchases. It is therefore critical for gaming developers to look at each OEM individually and learn whether they allow Google billing.

It is not mandatory to use unique billing solutions for OPPO, Vivo and Xiaomi

Every alternative app store will be slightly different and this will affect how a billing solution is implemented. For example, if you want to run a paid promotion with Huawei it is mandatory that your app is on the Huawei App Gallery and you are required to integrate the Huawei billing solution. However, when it comes to OEMs such as OPPO, Vivo and Xiaomi’s app stores, most developers prefer to stick with Google Play’s solution to avoid the additional workload of setting up and adding several contracts with different revenue share agreements to monitor. It is not mandatory to use the unique billing solutions for these OEMs if you want to place your app in the store. For example, it is acceptable to use Google’s solution and still earn revenue from paid promotion campaigns. Moreover, if you want to advertise OEMs like Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi there is no need to involve your developers. We can manage this process for you with the same billing solution and API.

Many developers believe they won’t monetize their inventory if installs don’t come from the Google Play Store

This is another myth that is preventing hyper casual games developers from leveraging the power of OEMs. Developers are concerned that distributing on alternative app stores will mean that their monetization is not going to be recognized by video ad companies, such as AppLovin or Unity, who sell their inventory. This is not true but it continues to make developers concerned that it will affect their build rate as a result of not being distributed by Google.

The truth is that most monetization networks do not need to consider which store the install comes from. As long as the alternative app store has no objections to distributing an app with Google Play services installed, there are no limitations from the app developers side. In fact, Google Admob has recently released an option to check OEM app stores as a distribution channel. With this in mind, you have opportunities to fill spaces for ads in your app without worrying about problems with your app’s monetization.

screenshot of Admob letting Developers select their method of distribution

Above screenshot of Admob letting Developers select their method of distribution

Developers may also be concerned about the complexity of the upload and maintenance process of an app on an alternative app store, but this is technically straightforward when working with AVOW. We offer our clients an opportunity to fast track this process by publishing via AVOW’s developer account. We also offer to frequently update the respective SDK. Once you feel comfortable having enough bandwidth to do this in-house, we can easily transfer the account over to you.

From payment solutions to getting your app featured, these widespread assumptions about what’s possible with alternative app stores is preventing businesses from benefiting from the full potential of OEMs. It is always best to consult with OEM specialists about whether a particular billing system or monetization strategy is possible. This helps you unlock the untapped potential of OEMs and scale your business.

AVOW partners with OEMs around the world. We are experts in OEM mobile inventory, helping clients with a consultative approach through the whole campaign cycle. Mobile marketers can expand their reach and unlock new revenue streams with AVOW’s OEM partnerships, which covers 42% of the global Android market.

How to feature apps on Oppo and Vivo’s app stores

How to feature apps on Oppo and Vivo app stores

By featuring apps in alternative app stores, marketers can reach new audiences that are unavailable on Google Play and the Apple App Store. With more competition than ever before in those stores, the need to diversify the availability of your app can play a significant role in reaching your goals. Oppo and Vivo are prime examples of popular OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturer) that have their own app stores with their own inventory you can use to scale your business. In this article we will outline how to get your app featured and the critical benefits these alternative app stores have to offer.

What are the benefits of featuring your app on Oppo and Vivo app stores?

While there are specifications for releasing your app on each app store, the time needed to meet these requirements is outweighed by the numerous benefits of alternative app stores.

Increase discoverability by targeting untapped markets: Discovery is a critical advantage alternative app stores offer marketers. These app stores are a smart way to drive growth by targeting untapped audiences. According to Statistica, OPPO shipped 24 million units in the second quarter of 2020 – continuing their significant increase in production over the past five years. Counterpoint Research found that Vivo has a 10% market share of global smartphone shipments in the first quarter of 2021.

Drive installs with incremental lift: Knowing which users are paid and organic is critical to driving incremental lift. By featuring your app on alternative app stores such as Oppo and Vivo you can drive incremental lift of paid installs. You can use Avow – which is partnered with the world’s leading OEMs – to build a relationship with users with targeting. The on-device advertising you gain is dynamic and intuitive, showing ads based on location, appographic, demographic, device type and keywords. This means you will know how users found your app and can use this critical data to drive growth. Moreover, alternative app stores offer high user acquisition and low CPI (cost-per-install) compared to Google Play and Apple’s App Store. This gives you the best opportunity to reach your targets and scale your business. You can learn more with our appographic targeting guide for OEMs.

An app store ecosystem without fraud: Mobile fraud is a legitimate concern for all marketers but alternative app stores have an ecosystem that is fraud-proof. This is because there are no additional layers between the budget holder and the alternative app store’s OEM (original equipment manufacturer). They have full control of reach advertising placement, meaning there is no opportunity for fraudsters to manipulate the ecosystem.

Increase brand awareness: Having your app featured on app stores operated by popular brands can help you build awareness and develop a positive brand reputation. For example, when users see that your app is suggested by Oppo based on their search terms and similar activity, this can generate installs by positive association.Why should I feature my app on Vivo’s app store?

With over 75 million users worldwide, Vivo has developed distribution networks across countries around the world. This includes distribution covering South Asia and countries in Southeast Asia. For example, featuring your app on Vivo’s app store has several advantages in Indonesia.  Vivo accounts for 9% of the total app store’s distribution in Indonesia with more than 150 million DAUs. The OEM accounts ships 27 million units per quarter worldwide, 8 million of those selling in India.

Why should I feature my app on Oppo’s app store?

Oppo uses Heytap, a comprehensive global Internet service platform that combines with three brands: OPPO, realme and Oneplus. The app store offers powerful distribution capabilities and rich traffic sources you can leverage to drive growth. Oppo’s global expansion now covers 40 countries around the world with products sold in over 320,000 stores. The OPPO Color OS has 300 million MAUs in global markets. In the second quarter of 2020, Oppo accounted for 20.3% of smartphone shipments in Southeast Asia – putting them ahead of Samsung (19.5%), Vivo (17.9%) and Xiaomi (14%). 

How is this similar to Google Play and the App Store?

Many mobile marketers gravitate to the two largest markets (Google Play Store and the App Store) but this can lead to missed opportunities with alternative app store’s untapped inventory. Ashwin Shekhar, Co-founder of Avow, explains that “alternative app stores are growing larger and larger with each passing day. As of 2019, according to the consultancy IDC, Xiaomi, Huawei, Vivo and Oppo made up 40.1% of global handset shipments in the fourth quarter, making them extremely viable alternative app stores for Android, full of untapped markets.”

OEMs are taking steps to make marketing on their alternative app stores easier than ever before. Oppo and Vivo are joining forces to create a platform for developers outside China, making it possible to upload apps onto all of their app stores simultaneously. A Reuters press release explains that “Along with Xaiomi and Huawei, these four companies are ironing out kinks in what is known as the Global Developer Service Alliance (GDSA). The platform aims to make it easier for developers of games, music, movies and other apps to market their apps in overseas markets, according to people with knowledge of the matter.” In this article we will outline how to get your app featured on Oppo and Vivo and the benefits that can help you scale your business. Nicole Peng, VP of Mobility at Canalys, says “By forming this alliance each company will be looking to leverage the others’ advantages in different regions, with Xiaomi’s strong user base in India, Vivo and Oppo in Southeast Asia, and Huawei in Europe.”

Can every app vertical be published on OPPO and Vivo?

OPPO and Vivo follow guidelines that are similar to Google Play, so these OEMs are unlikely to have any objections for apps that can be published on Google Play. If you want to publish finance/loan apps and real money gaming on OPPO and Vivo’s app stores, guidelines will depend on the restrictions per country or state.

Games developers can easily benefit from OPPO and Vivo because there is no need to negotiate a new billing system or revenue share for in-app purchases. Avow can work with the APK (Android Package Kit) available on Google Play.

What about ad formats and creative?

It is important to know the ad formats available to you when marketing your app in a new store. Here are the formats available to marketers who have featured their app on Oppo and Vivo.

  • Splash screen ads: These are full-screen ads that can deliver high engagement. This format supports deeplinks and a variety of targeting labels to acquire accurate users. 
  • Banner ads: This format displays your ad across a banner on the user’s screen. Banner ads offer a direct download on the homepage and also supports targeting labels for accurate targeting.
  • Icon ads: This includes a series of placements such as the homepage, must-haves and download recommendation pages. You can also use a search term package to acquire users without providing creatives.
  • PUSH ads: This offers high impressions and supports targeting labels for accurate targeting.

For best results, you can use frequent impressions across several formats to encourage users to form brand resonance. You can also learn everything you need to know about display ads and preinstall deals with alternative app stores with our guide.

Getting your app featured on alternative app stores: How Avow can help

We are partnered with the world’s leading OEMs – including Oppo and Vivo – and our team of OEM inventory experts are devoted to helping clients access these untapped marketers. We have a consultative approach through the entire campaign cycle to ensure you can optimize your strategy and scale your business with alternative app store inventory. Access to Avow’s OEM partnerships (which covers 42% of the global Android market) enables you to expand your reach and unlock new revenue streams that cannot be accessed through social, search or SDK networks. 


To learn more about Avow, get in touch with our team.