App developers have turned cellphones and tablets into powerful tools, spawning a multibillion-dollar industry but making huge sacrifices in the process.
One success story is Ethan Nicholas, who earned more than $1 million in 2009 after writing a game for the iPhone. But he says the app writing world has experienced tectonic shifts since then.
“Can someone drop everything and start writing apps? Sure,” said Mr. Nicholas, 34, who quit his job to write apps after iShoot, an artillery game, became a sensation. “Can they start writing good apps? Not often, no. I got lucky with iShoot, because back then a decent app could still be successful. But competition is fierce nowadays, and decent isn’t good enough.”
The boom in apps comes as economists are debating the changing nature of work, which technology is reshaping at an accelerating speed. The upheaval, in some ways echoing the mechanization of agriculture a century ago, began its latest turbulent phase with the migration of tech manufacturing to places like China. Now service and even white-collar jobs, like file clerks and data entry specialists or office support staff and mechanical drafters, are disappearing.