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Why App Economy Jobs Seem Destined to Go Overseas

Why App Economy Jobs Seem Destined to Go Overseas
Photograph by Iain Masterton/Alamy

While the tech industry is heralded as the future of the U.S. economy, many people question Silicon Valley’s ability to create jobs the way Detroit did decades ago. Manufacturing jobs are primarily located overseas, and Apple and Google hire relatively few people to work for them directly. This leaves the so-called app economy, a network of remora-like companies that do such things as write software for mobile platforms. These platforms offer American app developers relatively unfettered access to a global market of smartphone users—and at the same time open up competition from cheaper developers abroad. A critical question, then, is whether American developers can expand globally faster than apps made in other countries poach customers on their home soil.

The increasingly global nature of the app market came to the forefront last week when Flurry, a mobile advertising business, released an analysis of data it has collected about 350,000 app developers: It turns out Americans are already switching to more apps developed overseas. Nearly two-thirds of apps recording data through Flurry analytics in June have foreign roots, up from 55 percent a year ago. Still, the most popular apps generally remain Made in the U.S.A.