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A New Generation Of App Developers

Oct 10, 2011
Originally published on October 10, 2011 5:41 pm
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From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Guy Raz. And it's time now for All Tech Considered.


RAZ: While some teens and tweens spent the summer babysitting or mowing lawns, a growing number spent long hours in front of a screen with their parents' blessing.

From Hoover, Alabama, Gigi Douban reports on the new high-tech phenomenon - very young mobile app developers.

GIGI DOUBAN, BYLINE: One night this past summer, Ozair Patel and his parents were sitting around the dinner table. They were talking about the new school year and how Ozair could be more organized. Now, Ozair is a bright kid but like a lot of 13-year-olds, he loses things - handouts, notices - things like that. So by the first week of school, he'd built himself an iPhone app. He called it Berry Schoolmate, after his school Berry Middle.

OZAIR PATEL: It has the school's calendar on it, so you can find what days you have school off. And you can -mail your teachers from your iPod and your iPhone.

DOUBAN: Word spread about the app and Ozair became a middle school rock star.


DOUBAN: In the hallways, kids patted him on the back. The gave him high-fives. Most of them wanted to know how he did it so they could build mobile apps, too. In fact, the school district's chief technology officer was so impressed, he asked Ozair to make apps for other schools.

You agreed?

PATEL: Yeah, I did.

DOUBAN: Are they going to pay you?

PATEL: A lot - oh, I don't know if it's a lot. But they are going to pay me.

DOUBAN: A school system spokesman said they haven't yet nailed down how much he'll be paid, but they'll be sure to follow all child labor laws.

Ozair is OK with this odd little arrangement.

PATEL: So I'm working two jobs, being a student and working with them.


DOUBAN: Isn't that kind of bizarre?

PATEL: Yeah, it's kind of weird. But I'm getting paid, so...

DOUBAN: Ozair is part of a growing trend of kids-turned-entrepreneur. For instance, the eighth grader who built Bubble Ball, an app that managed to knock Angry Birds out of the top app slot.


DOUBAN: It's been downloaded more than nine million times. Many young developers are hoping to nail the next big hit and make some money. Say you build a nap for an iPhone or iPad, you charge 99 cents per download. Then if 1,000 people buy it, that's 700 bucks, after Apple's 30 percent cut. Free apps make money through ads.


DOUBAN: But not all kids do this to get rich. They want to build something fun like this...


DOUBAN: It's a musical app that changes your voice. Stanford Professor Ge Wang created it and other popular musical apps. He says more kids are learning to build apps now because, well, they can.

GE WANG: It's really not that hard. All the tools are there and they don't cost a lot of money.

DOUBAN: Wang says platforms like Apple's online app store have made it easier to bring a product to consumers. And he adds, lots of kids thrive on exploring uncharted territory in taking risks, which makes them fearless entrepreneurs.

CAROLINA MILANESI: Overall, the market is absolutely booming at the moment.

DOUBAN: Carolina Milanesi analyzes the app industry. Mobile apps sales are expected to double next year to $17 million. And Milanesi says tech savvy kids are poised to move in on those profits.

MILANESI: These devices are used in schools. They are part of their every day life and in both play and work for them.

DOUBAN: And for all those kids at Berry Middle School who wanted a piece of the action, Ozair started an app club.

For NPR News in Hoover, Alabama, I'm Gigi Douban. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.