Over the last couple of years, Apple has doubled its spending on research and development to a reported $8.1 billion. Despite this, it still spends a smaller percentage of their revenue on R&D than competitors like Google and Facebook. Yet despite this, Apple gets more out of its spending, pushing its partners and suppliers to innovate in the hopes of becoming a part of Apple's lucrative business, in particular, the iPhone.

From Bloomberg:

The prospect of getting a new chip, screen, or camera flash inside a future iPhone helps Apple steer other companies' research. Apple sold more than 230 million iPhones last year and has committed to spending $29.5 billion in the next 12 months on components such as chips, screens, camera modules, and graphics processors, up from $24.5 billion last year. "Suppliers are racing with each other to get Apple's business, and part of the racing they are doing is spending more on R&D," Mudambi says.

A significant portion of Apple's own R&D spending it aimed towards the company's A-series systems-on-a-chip such as the new A9X on the iPad Pro, which become more and more powerful with each passing year, while still retaining the same level of power efficiency. Apple currently has around 135 new job openings surrounding chip engineering and design.

But we usually never get a full picture of exactly what Apple spends its R&D money on. While other companies often demonstrate their prototype projects in the open, Apple often prefers to take the lid off a project when its ready, or almost ready, for customers. We rarely hear about the projects that don't get to that stage.

Source: Bloomberg