Apple's R&D up 32 percent in 2013, still dwarfed by rivals

The company is spending more than ever on research and development, but it's still a small amount compared with most of its competitors.

One of Apple's 17 different anechoic chambers, part of a $100 million research and development spend.
One of Apple's 17 different anechoic chambers, part of a $100 million research and development spend. Apple

Apple's research and development expenses hit new highs this year, but continue to remain a sliver of how much it spends -- especially when stacked up to competitors.

According to Apple's annual report, which was filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission early Wednesday, the company spent nearly $4.5 billion on research and development. That's up about $1.1 billion, or 32 percent, from last year.

The higher expenditure is still a small number compared with the company's overall sales, which came in around 3 percent -- up a single percentage point from last year.

Apple remains one of the smallest R&D spenders compared with its peers. Microsoft, for instance, spent $10.4 billion, or 13 percent of the company's revenue, on research during its 2013 fiscal year, which ran through June. There's also Google, which has spent $5.8 billion so far this year (and $9.8 billion in all of 2012), as well as Samsung, which spent around $10.5 billion on R&D last year and which is currently building a massive new facility in Silicon Valley.

Perhaps a closer comparison is Amazon, which has spent $4.7 billion so far this year, already beyond the $4.6 billion it spent during all of last year.

This isn't a new story for Apple, though it's become a more interesting one as expectations rise for the company to release products in new categories -- like a watch and a television. Part of those plans also involves an expansion to its facilities as part of the upcoming headquarters revamp in Cupertino, Calif., which got the green light from local government earlier this month.

Apple's R&D spending wasn't the only thing to get a bump this year. Apple also:

  • Spent $100 million more on advertising this year than last, racking up $1.1 billion in ads on newspapers, TV, online, and elsewhere;
  • Hired 7,500 more employees during the year;
  • Increased its stock repurchase spending from $10 billion to $60 billion.

You can read more about the whole year, which ran through September, here.

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