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R&D spending surge indicates Apple is working on something positively massive

Published May 6th, 2015 5:00PM EDT
Apple R&D Spending Increase Analysis

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Apple normally keeps is cards very close to its vest but we still can find some indications about when the company is working on something truly big. Neil Cybart at Above Avalon has written up some very strong analysis of Apple’s recent spending on research and development and has come to the conclusion that Apple is working on something positively massive whose significance could dwarf the iPhone, the Apple Watch or any other major product Apple has released so far.

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“Starting last summer, Apple’s quarterly R&D expense has increased $500 million from the previous year,” Cybart writes. “This pace is up from the $200-$300 million quarterly increase during the Apple Watch development phase. For perspective, it has been estimated that Apple spent just $150 million developing the iPhone… Looking at the recent jump in R&D, I suspect we are seeing the early stages of Apple beginning to add talent and processes for future personal transportation initiatives.”

When you read “transportation initiatives,” keep in mind that this doesn’t necessarily mean just an Apple-designed automobile. Apple may also be working to push the limits of what we can accomplish with batteries that could be used to power both personal electronic devices and cars in the future.

If you look at the graphs that Cybart has posted, you see that this most recent boost in R&D spending is simply huge relative to the R&D spending increases that occurred during the development of the iPhone and iPad, for example. This means that whatever Apple’s working on, it’s a lot more capital intensive than any other major project it’s taken on yet.

Cybart’s full analysis is worth reading and can be found by clicking here.

Brad Reed
Brad Reed Staff Writer

Brad Reed has written about technology for over eight years at and Network World. Prior to that, he wrote freelance stories for political publications such as AlterNet and the American Prospect. He has a Master's Degree in Business and Economics Journalism from Boston University.