Apple Has The Early Advantage In AR, But Google Will Win In The End: Study

Apple’s platform will be a big winner for app developers, but over time, Google’s should bring in more money for advertisers and media companies.

Apple Has The Early Advantage In AR, But Google Will Win In The End: Study
[Photo: courtesy of Apple]

In these early days of the augmented reality platform wars between Apple, Google, and Facebook, the big early edge goes to the maker of the iPhone, thanks to the massive install base of iOS devices that support AR.


That’s according to a new study from Digi-Capital. But Apple shouldn’t get too comfy with its early advantage; by 2021, the study concludes, Google’s ARCore could well have a substantial lead in the race for users, dollars, and influence.

The Digi-Capital study suggests that by next year, when ARKit, ARCore, and Facebook’s Camera Effects are all fully launched, Apple’s AR platform will have an installed base 1.5 times that of Camera Effects, and twice as large as that of ARCore.

The problem for Google in the early stages, Digi-Capital argues, is that there are too many different versions of Android in use today, and not nearly as many that support ARCore. That’ll change over the next few years, however, and when it does, both Apple and Facebook could see themselves swamped by massive adoption of ARCore-compatible Android devices.

“Different adoption curves across Android and Facebook’s Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp might give ARCore 2.3x ARKit and 2.5x Camera Effects installed base by 2021,” the study explains. “Only at that stage are we looking at over 2 billion installed base for ARCore globally.”

Digi-Capital’s theory is that less than half of all Android devices will be ARCore-ready by 2019. But at that point, new devices and users upgrading to newer versions of the OS will create a massive new base of Android AR users.


By comparison, the number of both ARKit-compatible iOS devices and Camera Effects users should be fairly steady over the next few years, allowing Google to grab the lion’s share of mobile AR users–and total revenue.

The study appears to discount Facebook’s ability to bring in meaningful revenue with its AR platform.

Google’s advantage over time should hold true even though Digi-Capital expects Apple’s AR platform to earn more revenue per user through 2021 and beyond. Where Google comes out ahead, the study suggests, is in total mobile AR revenues–in-app purchases, premium revenue, ad spend, and e-commerce. While Apple should earn 2.7 times as much total mobile AR revenue as Google next year, the script will flip over the following three years. By 2021, Digi-Capital predicts, ARCore will bring in 1.4 times the money of ARKit.

Where are the winners outside of Cupertino, Mountain View, and Menlo Park (Apple’s, Google’s, and Facebook’s headquarters, respectively)? The study suggests that thanks to in-app purchases and premium apps, Apple’s ARKit will be the bigger bread-winning opportunity for several years to come.

Still, advertising dollars and media companies, though, revenue opportunities through ARCore should grow substantially over time, eventually giving Google the edge in total dollars.


Ultimately, the point of Digi-Capital’s study isn’t so much about which combatant will win the AR wars. It’s that mobile AR itself now appears poised to be a substantial money maker, thanks to the launch of AR platforms by three of the world’s biggest tech companies.

“There’s one question we’ve asked for the last three years when mentoring CEOs, developing strategy for corporates or when [venture capital] firms have asked [us] to join them–what’s the catalyst for AR to scale,” wrote Digi-Capital. “We don’t need to ask that any more.”

About the author

Daniel Terdiman is a San Francisco-based technology journalist with nearly 20 years of experience. A veteran of CNET and VentureBeat, Daniel has also written for Wired, The New York Times, Time, and many other publications.