How the APP economy is shaping labour trends

Caption - Apps excite greater interest in smartphones

There is a phenomenon gathering momentum in the US whereby ordinary smartphone users are harnessing the power of these devices and wireless networks to provide a variety of services for not just large companies but also individuals. The “app economy” as it is being referred, is creating hundreds of thousands of micro entrepreneurs providing anything from marketing data to hired-car services and then some. It’s called the app economy because it is being driven by customised smartphone apps and it is this potential that the bmobile Imagine next network envisages for a vibrant app development environment in Trinidad and Tobago.

Five years ago apps as we know it were non-existent. That’s until the iPhone landed on the market, changing the way we use mobile devices. Since then, other Smartphone apps for Android and Blackberry have joined the fray offering a solution for everything from help in packing for a trip, traffic forecasts or creating a to-do list. Looking for the best authentic sounding, virtual pan instruments to play on your device? Yes, there’s an app for that too.

In the USA, the tech world is seeing the rise of apps as tools for job creation- not just for programmers and support staff, but for the ordinary man in the street. The unemployed and those stuck in dead-end jobs have found some apps useful in launching new careers as entrepreneurs, albeit part-time for some.

According to a study sponsored by TechNet ( and researched by economist Dr Michael Mandel, the app economy illustrates the job-creating power of innovation and has created 466,000 jobs in the United States since 2007. TechNet is the US-based bipartisan network of CEOS and Senior Executives that promotes the growth of technology led innovation

Ordinary people who are either unemployed or are in dead-end jobs have found apps useful in launching new careers as merchants-on-the-go. The rise in mobile app jobs are said to be reminiscent of the days when the Internet was new and customers realised that they could use their desktop and laptops to buy and sell online via sites like e-Bay.

From booking a private car through the Uber app to buying and selling designer clothes via iPhone’s Poshmark, it’s possible for users to start and grow their own business from just about anywhere.

Poshmark, a mobile fashion marketplace, connects buyers to sellers of clothes. Its CEO Manish Chandra told the Wall Street Journal he deliberately created the app so that users could make a living.

“There’s an emotional connection with your phone,” he told the Wall Street Journal. “I think our users are seeing that.”

Drivers in the US who use the Uber apps are reveling in busier business days. Uber is tagged as everyone’s private driver and can be used by commuters to request a private car in any city where the service is available. The app also lets the driver know the location of commuters.

Apps also offer the employed a chance to make extra income. These include SurveyHead, which pays users to participate in their surveys and Iconzoomer, which pays users for uploading photos they are assigned to take by the company. The photos requested are as random as the shoes you’re wearing to what you had for breakfast.

EasyShift sends users assignments that can range from pricing products to giving their opinions after which they are paid.

Apps pay out in many different ways. Some app companies pay cash while others award points that are eventually converted to cash. Users of Surveyhead can earn up to $300 US dollars depending on how many surveys they take. There is also an incentive of  a five dollar bonus just for signing up but the company won’t pay cash until at least $50 is earned.

Iconzoomer’s payment is dependent on what type of member the user ranks as. The more photos that are accepted by the company from an individual user the more credit he or she receives. Apart from cash,  users are also paid vouchers or can choose to donate to their favourite charities.

Employment in the app economy also includes infrastructure jobs in companies like Google, Apple and Facebook and app-related jobs at large companies such as Electronic Arts, Amazon, and AT& T.

TechNet’s president and CEO Rey Ramsey, commenting on the findings Dr Mandel’s research, said “America’s app economy demonstrates that we can quickly create economic value and jobs through cutting-edge innovation.”

Researcher Mandel told the app economy, along with the broad communications sector, “has been a leading source of hiring strength in an otherwise sluggish labour market.”

The future for the app economy is filled with possibilities. How big can the app economy get?  The TechNet report says that depends on the future of wireless and social networks.

“If wireless and social network platforms continue to grow, then we can expect the app economy to grow along with them.