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

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.