Meet the youngest App Store developers
Move over, Angry Birds: These smartphone apps, designed by kids ages 8 to 15, include a best-seller.
It’s a silly question, but I ask it anyway: “Owen, who would win in an app-building contest, you or me?” A precocious 14-year-old from west suburban Hinsdale, Owen Voorhees pauses for a moment, ever so considerate of my feelings.
“Um, well, I think I would. I’ve got a little more experience under my belt. I’ve started to branch out to more complicated things now that I’ve learned the basics.”
The young developer won’t say it, but he’d not only beat me, he’d embarrass me, despite my elder-statesman status. At age 11, the tech wiz spent nearly a year designing and coding his first app, MathTime—a virtual flashcard game that improves basic arithmetic skills and helps students ace those pesky “mad minute” math drills. With help from his younger brother Finn, he made what became a featured product on the iTunes App Store, where it sells for 99 cents. According to Voorhees, though, designing MathTime wasn’t the hardest part.
“I did a lot of reading before I even began thinking about a design,” he says. “Coding took a very long time to learn.”
Voorhees is one of a handful of trending young innovators designing and coding application software for tablets and smartphones. We found five more techies under age 16 with products featured on the iTunes App Store, paving the way for the future.
At age 10, small-time investor Fabian Fernandez-Han of Houston made ten grand with some savvy, timely investments (thanks, Apple stock). His passion for all things finance led Fernandez-Han, now 14, to develop Oink-a-Saurus, which lets kids invest in real stocks with hypothetical funds. (No need to worry, mom and dad, it’s not real money.) It’s an easy-to-use strategizer for kids, sure, but even adults can learn a thing or two. With Oink-a-Saurus tracking real-time data, you’ll diversify your porkfolio in no time.
Bubble Ball (free)
For a little while, Bubble Ball made angry birds out of Angry Birds, overtaking the überpopular pig destroyers as the No. 1 free game on the App Store. This puzzle, by 15-year-old Robert Nay of Utah, takes geometry and physics to a whole new level. Players must figure out how to guide the ball from start to finish using geometric shapes and planks affected by gravity. Since its development, Bubble Ball has generated a whopping 11 million downloads on the App Store.
PizzaBot (99 cents)
Everyone loves a good take on a classic, and this ode to the arcade games of the pizzeria past is as fun as it is quirky. It reenvisions the Galaxian-style alien-attack trope, with a thematic twist reminiscent of BurgerTime. Developed by 12-year-old Harry Moran of Cork, Ireland, PizzaBot takes on pesky pepperonis and salamis as they try to bury your pie with excessive toppings. Your pizza slice prevails by shooting them down.
Toaster Pop (99 cents)
Developed by eight-year-old Connor Zamary of Ohio, Toaster Pop is as simple as, well, toast. Here’s the shtick: Slab butter and jam onto pieces of toast as quickly as you can. The faster you slather, the higher the points, the better the jam flavors. It’s no Fruit Ninja, but seriously, eight years old? Imagine what he’ll come up with when he’s ten!
Bustin Jieber (99 cents)
Not the most complex of games but probably one of the more satisfying, this virtual Whac-A-Mole increases the fun by putting the Biebs in the spotlight. Players must “knock” the teen-pop sensation in order to collect points. Created by Southern Cal resident Thomas Suarez, 12, Bustin Jieber is an instant guilty pleasure with its (literal) Bieber-bashing gimmick.