Editorial: A record $4.3B R&D spend proves Apple is building for the future

Posted:
in AAPL Investors
Apple's reported operational expenses for research and development in the June quarter hit a new all-time high of $4.257 billion, well over twice the quarterly spending it reported in 2015. Apple's aggressive expansion demonstrates the company is building for the future even as its rivals retreat from tablets and smartwatches and fail to keep pace with Apple's aggressive OS updates and custom silicon work.

Apple Park
What did Apple spent over $4 billion on this quarter inside its $4 billion Apple Park?

Software R&D

While R&D is often imagined to be secretive spending on a blockbuster new product, the reported figure refers to all investments related to unreleased products. That includes all the software Apple builds, including this year's iOS 13 and macOS Catalina, advancements in the new iPadOS and watchOS, and Apple's Xcode 11 development tools.

Software investments also include Apple's work in the development of the world's largest Augmented Reality platform, including this year's release of new Reality Composer shipping with ARKit 3. Apple is also expanding its investments in Machine Learning, along with other new development initiatives including SwiftUI, Combine and Project Catalyst.

Reality Composer
Catalina's Reality Composer makes it easy to construct AR worlds for iOS users


Apple is also leveraging its own development tools to build new and enhanced apps, including the new Reminders and Find My apps for both iOS and Macs, as well as the revamping of iTunes into custom apps for Podcasts, Books, TV and Music that will now work consistently across its platforms. Apple is also consistently enhancing free apps including Photos, Messages, FaceTime, Pages, Numbers, and Keynote that work across its platforms to enhance the experience for users who invest in Apple hardware.

Hardware and Silicon R&D

R&D also includes the product development of entirely new machines like the revamped Mac Pro, its advanced Pro Display XDR, and the entirely new architecture including Onboard Infinity Fabric Link, support for new MPX expansion modules, and the new Afterburner card with a custom Field Programmable Gate Array for rapidly accelerating tedious media workflows.

Mac Pro Afterburner
The Afterburner installed inside a Mac Pro


The reported R&D figures are also funding the development of custom Apple silicon driving advancements for iPhones and iPad, as well as the new T2 chips that bring iOS security, encryption, media handling and camera imaging features to new Macs. Apple's advanced custom silicon work is also fueling the advancement of Apple Watch and AirPods with advanced wireless and high performance, ultra-efficient processor packages that competitors don't have any access to.

Apple separately just acquired Intel's baseband wireless processor team, enabling the company to expand its custom chip efforts to include a custom-developed integrated cellular modem for its mobile devices ranging from iPhone and iPad to Apple Watch, and conceptually even mobile Macs in the future. This work should complement its existing efforts to build custom SoC subsystems ranging from the ML-accelerating Neural Engine to the relatively new Apple GPU and other custom controller sub-processors that handle storage, encryption and imaging logic.

Services R&D

Along with relentless enhancements to hardware and software, R&D is also funding the software powering Apple's Services push, something many tech media personalities failed to grasp the purpose of earlier this year.

The development of Apple's new cross-platform TV App with support for individual subscription Channels, as well as the work to support new Apple Arcade titles across iOS, tvOS and Macs, both required substantial work. Both are examples of areas that Apple's competitors are not similarly investing in TV boxes, tablets, and desktop computer platforms.

Apple Arcade
Apple Arcade is a major ecosystem expansion for Apple platforms


Apple is also unique in its ambitious efforts to expand into subscription content with AppleTV+. It is funding its own alternative to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and the offerings of various studios producing original content. That's an expensive proposition, but Apple's vast cash holdings mean that it will be able to invest liberally in funding the development of new content even as it enjoys a global position of having created a tight ecosystem of affluent buyers that now involves well over a billion active devices.

Signing up and retaining subscribers is one of the largest problems for companies like Netflix. But Apple is already selling a portfolio of Services to its vast installed base, ranging from Apple Music to iCloud storage and the emerging News+.

R&D also includes the money invested in building out Apple Card as an app-centric service that leverages the global work the company has already invested to make Apple Pay the most popular way to make secure electronic purchases. With Apple Card and Apple Pay Cash, the company will have an even closer relationship with its customers, making it that much easier to offer paid upgrades, hardware trade-in programs, entertainment, and information services.

Apple Card
Apple Card required R&D to deliver


Apple is also spending significantly on free-to-use initiatives that enhance the value of its hardware products. That includes its revamped Maps with street-level "Look Around," which it expects to expand across the US this year and eventually bring to other countries. The company is also aggressively expanding its massive global lead in supporting Siri across the most languages. iOS 13 brings new language support to India, where Apple reported new growth in the quarter. There's still a lot of work to be done to expand free Services including News, Maps, and Siri to other countries and languages, but Apple now operates a series of R&D centers across the world to work on these language localizations and regional customizations.

Apple's Services segment now brings in over $11 billion per quarter, largely from handling third party subscriptions through the App Store. As Apple's platforms become increasingly important, this growing Services income will enable the company to benefit from its work to make secure, privacy-centric platforms that don't rely on surveillance advertising. All of Apple's competitors-- notably including Samsung, Huawei and other licensees of Google and Microsoft platforms-- are currently shipping phones, tablets, PCs and TVs that are priced so cheaply that they are forced to rely on revenues from spyware and user tracking to monetize their hardware and software.

A marked change from Apple of the 90s, or Google today

While Apple is now spending more than it ever has on R&D, the rapid pace of its new hardware product introductions, new silicon, new development tools, new apps, and new services is also occurring a lot faster than ever before. Notably, Apple is not developing a series of conceptual products or whimsical initiatives in public that drag along under development for years before being abandoned or failing in the market.


Apple's R&D spending. Source: Ycharts


In the 1990s, Apple's Advanced Technology Group burned through money developing concepts and working on prototypes that largely went nowhere. Apple invented email protocols and search systems and mobile ideas, and created the forerunner of RSS and consumer hypermedia and VR surround video and advanced typography, only to lose out to faster innovators or others who acquired its work and ultimately brought products to market.

The failure of the ATG's R&D to generate sustaining revenues capable of supporting future research made it a money pit on the order of Xerox PARC or Bell Labs before it, where advanced technologies were developed at extraordinary cost but effectively monetized elsewhere. Apple's previous era of ineffective spending is now being replicated at Google, where today's tech media cheer on impractical concepts like the modular Project Ara phone or the wildly experimental Google Glass, and scores of other expensive moon shot projects that either fail to take off or burn up tons of money never actually making it to the moon.

And while Apple's current R&D budget is its highest ever-- currently about five times the pace of its spending when Steve Jobs was alive-- it's relatively low compared to other big-spending peers. That includes Amazon, Alphabet, Samsung, and Intel, all of which spent significantly more money on R&D than Apple last year while delivering less valuable technology incapable of keeping up with Apple's valuable innovations.

Apple's ability to turn R&D into immediately practical applications-- from paid hardware and Services to free apps, OS upgrades, and development tools that enhance its ecosystem and attract and retain buyers-- is earning the company so much money that its efficient R&D budget remains an extremely small percentage of its revenues.

Analysts have vocally criticized both the amount Apple is spending on R&D and the fact that its peers are spending more. This spring, Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said that despite all of its R&D spending, "we've seen minimal fruits of that labor," indicating that Wedbush doesn't really understand what R&D is nor what Apple is developing. And in parallel, Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi announced that there is a "somewhat strong correlation between R&D as a percent of revenue and gross margin," and concluded that "Apple could double its R&D and be relatively inline with peers," again confusing the spending of money with the creation of valuable products.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 42
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 4,961member
    This is good.  $4.3 Billion is a lot of money.
    But, Huawei spends 4-5 times that on R&D each year ($15-$20B annually).
    Meanwhile Apple spends around 20 times that buying back its own stock rather than investing in the company ($75-$100B annually).

    Yeh, they're doing good.  But they could do a LOT better!

    American companies didn't become powerhouses by making stockholders rich but by investing and growing themselves.  Yes, Apple is doing a good job growing themselves.  But they could be doing much, much better if their resources were utilized to grow and future-proof their company.
    chaickaapplesnorangeschemengin1elijahgmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 2 of 42
    RajkaRajka Posts: 18member
    Personally, I think Apple's efforts will be moot if it does not deliver the very best user experience possible for a modest premium, and a clearly delineated simple product line. You know, do what Jobs did. Steve had a great vision, yes; but he also knew how to make customers passionate for Apple. That kind of goodwill cannot be bought; it can only be earned. That's why I no longer have passion for Apple. Tim Cook killed it with his focus on delivering outstanding shareholder returns over excellence. Sigh.
    hammeroftruthdavgregchemengin1elijahgSanctum1972muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 3 of 42
    mobirdmobird Posts: 222member
     The company is also aggressively expanding its massive global lead in supporting Siri across the most languages. iOS 13 brings new language support to India, where Apple reported new growth in the quarter. There's still a lot of work to be done to expand free Services including News, Maps, and Siri to other countries and languages, but Apple now operates a series of R&D centers across the world to work on these language localizations and regional customizations..
    How about just getting Siri to do the most basic of things within the languages currently available. With so much criticism regarding Siri's current performance, maybe focusing on the basics should be the focus...

    We can talk about Music later  :*
    edited August 6 cornchiphammeroftruthdavgregelijahgretrogustosteveau
  • Reply 4 of 42
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,789administrator
    This is good.  $4.3 Billion is a lot of money.
    But, Huawei spends 4-5 times that on R&D each year ($15-$20B annually).
    Meanwhile Apple spends around 20 times that buying back its own stock rather than investing in the company ($75-$100B annually).

    Yeh, they're doing good.  But they could do a LOT better!

    American companies didn't become powerhouses by making stockholders rich but by investing and growing themselves.  Yes, Apple is doing a good job growing themselves.  But they could be doing much, much better if their resources were utilized to grow and future-proof their company.
    It isn't a 1:1 compare. Huawei's R&D numbers also includes manufacturing automation, 5G infrastructure, and the like. 
    edited August 6 StrangeDayslolliverpscooter63Rayz2016Carnage
  • Reply 5 of 42
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 8,298member
    This is good.  $4.3 Billion is a lot of money.
    But, Huawei spends 4-5 times that on R&D each year ($15-$20B annually).
    Meanwhile Apple spends around 20 times that buying back its own stock rather than investing in the company ($75-$100B annually).

    Yeh, they're doing good.  But they could do a LOT better!

    American companies didn't become powerhouses by making stockholders rich but by investing and growing themselves.  Yes, Apple is doing a good job growing themselves.  But they could be doing much, much better if their resources were utilized to grow and future-proof their company.
    Apple: Most successful public and US firm in history.
    Armchair executives: "You could be doing better!"
    cornchiptmaychaickadedgeckololliverfastasleeppscooter63steveauRayz2016badmonk
  • Reply 6 of 42
    This is good.  $4.3 Billion is a lot of money.
    But, Huawei spends 4-5 times that on R&D each year ($15-$20B annually).

    You're mixing pineapples and oranges. Apple is spending ~$4.3B per quarter. That's ~$17.3B per year - right up there with Huawei PLUS share buybacks. Get the facts right.
    StrangeDayscornchipcharlesgrestmaybsimpsenapplesnorangescaladanianretrogustodedgeckololliver
  • Reply 7 of 42
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 8,298member

    Rajka said:
    Personally, I think Apple's efforts will be moot if it does not deliver the very best user experience possible for a modest premium, and a clearly delineated simple product line. You know, do what Jobs did. Steve had a great vision, yes; but he also knew how to make customers passionate for Apple. That kind of goodwill cannot be bought; it can only be earned. That's why I no longer have passion for Apple. Tim Cook killed it with his focus on delivering outstanding shareholder returns over excellence. Sigh.
    Are you honestly claiming Jobs-Apple only sought a "modest" premium? Nice attempt to re-write history, dude. 

    You also misunderstand Apple if you believe they are focused on the shareholder. In reality they are famous for the doing the opposite, and not managing to the stock price, to the ire of Wall Street. This has been written about numerous times. Here's a good one tho:

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2011/11/28/maximizing-shareholder-value-the-dumbest-idea-in-the-world/

    ...personally, I think you're high. I have a brand new iMac, an iPhone X, an iPad Pro, AirPods, HomePods, MBP, etc... And they're all the best versions of these devices I've ever owned, I'd never switch them. They deliver excellence, despite your claims otherwise.

    Sorry you lost your passion. Maybe you're just bored.
    edited August 6 mobirduraharacornchipking editor the gratecharlesgresSolitmaychaickalolliverfastasleep
  • Reply 8 of 42
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 8,298member
    mobird said:
     The company is also aggressively expanding its massive global lead in supporting Siri across the most languages. iOS 13 brings new language support to India, where Apple reported new growth in the quarter. There's still a lot of work to be done to expand free Services including News, Maps, and Siri to other countries and languages, but Apple now operates a series of R&D centers across the world to work on these language localizations and regional customizations..
    How about just getting Siri to do the most basic of things within the languages currently available. With so much criticism regarding Siri's current performance, maybe focusing on the basics should be the focus...
    It already does, in 21 different languages (which I believe none of the others do). The basics are what I use it for: texting, reminders, alarms, appointments, music, home automation, and general trivia. Those are the basics for a voice interface and there is little trouble there. All of these systems are in their infancy and none of them can be mistaken for actual artificial intelligence or assistants, they all fail at contextual meaning, re-queries, etc. Looking forward to seeing how they improve.
    edited August 6 cornchipcharlesgresAppleExposedapplesnorangescaladanianmacpluspluslolliverfastasleeppscooter63watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 42
    seanismorrisseanismorris Posts: 1,044member
    iWork and iCloud need to be scaled up for small businesses.  They’re currently not much of an option to Microsoft Office 365 and OneDrive...
    bigtdscornchipdavgregchemengin1caladanian
  • Reply 10 of 42
    mobirdmobird Posts: 222member
    mobird said:
     The company is also aggressively expanding its massive global lead in supporting Siri across the most languages. iOS 13 brings new language support to India, where Apple reported new growth in the quarter. There's still a lot of work to be done to expand free Services including News, Maps, and Siri to other countries and languages, but Apple now operates a series of R&D centers across the world to work on these language localizations and regional customizations..
    How about just getting Siri to do the most basic of things within the languages currently available. With so much criticism regarding Siri's current performance, maybe focusing on the basics should be the focus...

    We can talk about Music later  :*
    It already does, in 21 different languages (which I believe none of the others do). The basics are what I use it for: texting, reminders, alarms, appointments, music, home automation, and general trivia. Those are the basics for a voice interface and there is little trouble there. All of these systems are in their infancy and none of them can be mistaken for actual artificial intelligence or assistants, they all fail at contextual meaning, re-queries, etc. Looking forward to seeing how they improve.
    Maybe I should have said something to the effect that Siri needs work on the "basic" ability to comprehend... ;) One of the larger complaints here in AI.
    I love my HomePods (stereo pairs and single deployments)  and use them through out the day but it certainly is frustrating when "basic" request are mangled. I thought that Siri was to "learn" the user on a ongoing basis? (I might not have stated this correctly). Does ML come into play here? I use the same language and dialect so that is not a variable. Maybe Siri should have the ability to scan Apple's first party apps to have a deeper understanding of the user information? Scan Music for Artist, Album Titles, Song Titles, and Playlist. Maybe I am clueless with some of my expectations...
    edited August 6 chemengin1muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 11 of 42
    sirozhasirozha Posts: 577member
    This is good.  $4.3 Billion is a lot of money.
    But, Huawei spends 4-5 times that on R&D each year ($15-$20B annually).
    Meanwhile Apple spends around 20 times that buying back its own stock rather than investing in the company ($75-$100B annually).

    Yeh, they're doing good.  But they could do a LOT better!

    American companies didn't become powerhouses by making stockholders rich but by investing and growing themselves.  Yes, Apple is doing a good job growing themselves.  But they could be doing much, much better if their resources were utilized to grow and future-proof their company.
    Complete lack of understanding of what a corporation is and whom it benefits. 
    lolliverpscooter63Rayz2016
  • Reply 12 of 42

    Rajka said:
    Personally, I think Apple's efforts will be moot if it does not deliver the very best user experience possible for a modest premium, and a clearly delineated simple product line. You know, do what Jobs did. Steve had a great vision, yes; but he also knew how to make customers passionate for Apple. That kind of goodwill cannot be bought; it can only be earned. That's why I no longer have passion for Apple. Tim Cook killed it with his focus on delivering outstanding shareholder returns over excellence. Sigh.
    ...personally, I think you're high. I have a brand new iMac, an iPhone X, an iPad Pro, AirPods, HomePods, MBP, etc... And they're all the best versions of these devices I've ever owned, I'd never switch them. They deliver excellence, despite your claims otherwise.
    Hey, hey, don't impugn high people; they enjoy savory Apple products as much as low people ... possibly more.
    Solimuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 13 of 42
    mjtomlinmjtomlin Posts: 1,922member
    mobird said:
     The company is also aggressively expanding its massive global lead in supporting Siri across the most languages. iOS 13 brings new language support to India, where Apple reported new growth in the quarter. There's still a lot of work to be done to expand free Services including News, Maps, and Siri to other countries and languages, but Apple now operates a series of R&D centers across the world to work on these language localizations and regional customizations..
    How about just getting Siri to do the most basic of things within the languages currently available. With so much criticism regarding Siri's current performance, maybe focusing on the basics should be the focus...

    We can talk about Music later  :*

    I'm guessing you gave up on both after a few tries?

    I use Siri everyday and it works great - rarely does it not understand what I've said.

    And I listen to Apple Music everyday as well, and take part in letting it know what I like and don't like.

    If you don't use the systems and guide them, they're never going to learn and work for you.
    charlesgreslolliverpscooter63watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 42
    SoliSoli Posts: 9,197member
    This is good.  $4.3 Billion is a lot of money.
    But, Huawei spends 4-5 times that on R&D each year ($15-$20B annually).
    Yeah, but for Huawei it stands for Robbery and Deceptiveness. Paying off people to steal IP isn't cheap.
    edited August 6 GG1AppleExposedStrangeDayslolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 42
    tmaytmay Posts: 3,844member
    This is good.  $4.3 Billion is a lot of money.
    But, Huawei spends 4-5 times that on R&D each year ($15-$20B annually).
    Meanwhile Apple spends around 20 times that buying back its own stock rather than investing in the company ($75-$100B annually).

    Yeh, they're doing good.  But they could do a LOT better!

    American companies didn't become powerhouses by making stockholders rich but by investing and growing themselves.  Yes, Apple is doing a good job growing themselves.  But they could be doing much, much better if their resources were utilized to grow and future-proof their company.
    Apple spent that $4.3B just for the 2019 June quarter. Apple spend almost the same amount as Huawei per year, which has telecom, consumer, and server divisions consuming that total R&D, and for that, Apple generates much more revenue, and more importantly profit, than Huawei. Maybe you should do a bit more research. You are beginning to sound like the crazy American Uncle of AvonB7.


    AppleExposedlolliverRayz2016watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 42
    mjtomlinmjtomlin Posts: 1,922member

    iWork and iCloud need to be scaled up for small businesses.  They’re currently not much of an option to Microsoft Office 365 and OneDrive...

    And as soon as they do we get bloggers wondering...

    "we consider the state of Apple's built-in apps and whether it's getting harder for third-party developers to compete with them"

    And then calls of anticompetitive behavior, etc.
    edited August 6 chaickaAppleExposedmacplusplusRayz2016FileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 42
    mobird said:
     The company is also aggressively expanding its massive global lead in supporting Siri across the most languages. iOS 13 brings new language support to India, where Apple reported new growth in the quarter. There's still a lot of work to be done to expand free Services including News, Maps, and Siri to other countries and languages, but Apple now operates a series of R&D centers across the world to work on these language localizations and regional customizations..
    How about just getting Siri to do the most basic of things within the languages currently available. With so much criticism regarding Siri's current performance, maybe focusing on the basics should be the focus...

    We can talk about Music later  :*
    It already does, in 21 different languages (which I believe none of the others do). The basics are what I use it for: texting, reminders, alarms, appointments, music, home automation, and general trivia. Those are the basics for a voice interface and there is little trouble there. All of these systems are in their infancy and none of them can be mistaken for actual artificial intelligence or assistants, they all fail at contextual meaning, re-queries, etc. Looking forward to seeing how they improve.
    And there are vast numbers of Apple users who simply don't care about Siri or Apple Music. There are many other things that make us decide to use Apple kit.
    I gave Windows the elbow 10 years ago this week and don't regret it one bit. Sure there are faults and frustrations but after working with computers since man set foot on the moon for the last time, the whole Apple environment works for me and millions like me.
    AppleExposedcharlesgres
  • Reply 18 of 42
    chaickachaicka Posts: 134member
    This is good.  $4.3 Billion is a lot of money.
    But, Huawei spends 4-5 times that on R&D each year ($15-$20B annually).
    Meanwhile Apple spends around 20 times that buying back its own stock rather than investing in the company ($75-$100B annually).

    Yeh, they're doing good.  But they could do a LOT better!

    American companies didn't become powerhouses by making stockholders rich but by investing and growing themselves.  Yes, Apple is doing a good job growing themselves.  But they could be doing much, much better if their resources were utilized to grow and future-proof their company.
    Pardon my limited knowledge on stock and how it should be managed. What I think is buying back own stock is also important. Look at Daimler (parent company of Mercedes Benz) which is now having a largest shareholder from China. I think swedish car maker Volvo is another example. In short, managing those stock in the open market is also important, otherwise one day Apple may no longer be an 'American' firm overnight.
    FileMakerFeller
  • Reply 19 of 42
    FolioFolio Posts: 600member
    Apple's R&D ramp quite impressive and it's internal accounting comparisons. More reliable than external comparisons with rivals who might seek bragging rights. Key of course is recruiting top tier grads and proven performers. My hunch is Apple will find that even better now, given 1. Privacy cache at Cupertino and more liberal publishing in areas like AI and ML and 2. Facebook, Amazon, Google, etc stock incentives not as big differentiators as in years past
    AppleExposed
  • Reply 20 of 42
    chaickachaicka Posts: 134member
    mjtomlin said:
    mobird said:
     The company is also aggressively expanding its massive global lead in supporting Siri across the most languages. iOS 13 brings new language support to India, where Apple reported new growth in the quarter. There's still a lot of work to be done to expand free Services including News, Maps, and Siri to other countries and languages, but Apple now operates a series of R&D centers across the world to work on these language localizations and regional customizations..
    How about just getting Siri to do the most basic of things within the languages currently available. With so much criticism regarding Siri's current performance, maybe focusing on the basics should be the focus...

    We can talk about Music later  :*

    I'm guessing you gave up on both after a few tries?

    I use Siri everyday and it works great - rarely does it not understand what I've said.

    And I listen to Apple Music everyday as well, and take part in letting it know what I like and don't like.

    If you don't use the systems and guide them, they're never going to learn and work for you.
    Just to add on since I am not native English speaking. Prior to iOS 12, using Siri was not quite as smooth sailing as I have expected, esp. I use Siri a lot while driving (e.g. send text, get me directions, find nearest petrol station for specific brand, etc). With iOS 12, there is a sudden leap forward, esp. in understanding the variant of English I speak and not-exactly-English road names, etc. It became really usable on regular basis and most of the frustration is more or less gone.

    I am not sure if ML is included in the OS for HomePod. Where I am, HomePod has yet to launch (for unknown reason cause we are usually in the Tier 1 launch countries for almost every Apple product, launch together with US or else the next wave if launch was only US alone). Just managed to get one from overseas and I believe the noticeable improvements will come in the next OS (expected to release together with iOS 13). I suspect that's where ML may be included, otherwise, I wonder how the HomePod is going to be able to process different voices locally since it's going to support multi-user.
    lolliverwatto_cobra
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