Apple R&D spending is a fraction of other major American tech companies

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Apple spent just 3.5 percent — $8.1 billion — of its 2015 revenues on research and development, proportionately far less than peers like Google and Facebook in the American tech landscape.

Qualcomm and Facebook spent 22 and 21 percent on R&D in their 2015 fiscal years, according to Bloomberg. Even Alphabet — Google's parent company — spent 15 percent, targeting not just Web and mobile endeavors but projects like self-driving vehicles and extending human life.

Apple did reap far more revenue than those other companies, pulling in over $233 billion, whereas even Alphabet only took in $66 billion.

Apple stretches its budget by relying heavily on advances from suppliers, said Ram Mudambi, a business school professor at Temple University in Philadelphia. The value of the company's contracts is said to encourage suppliers to put forward their own best technology.

The company's 2015 R&D budget was up from $6 billion in 2014, and $4.5 billion in 2013. Some of this presumably went into technologies like the Apple Watch and its A9-series chips, along with projects that are still extremely clandestine — including its long-term electric car project.

Apple separately spent another $11.2 billion on capital equipment expenses, such as manufacturing tools and its new Cupertino headquarters. That number is expected to reach $15 billion in 2016. It may indeed go much higher as Apple's car approaches an anticipated 2019/2020 launch.

 
 

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