Google vs. Apple: Which Pays Its Software Engineers Higher Salaries?

When the U.S. government launched its recent anti-trust investigation into Google, it surfaced an interesting deal between the search-engine giant and Apple: In exchange for billions of dollars per year, Apple makes Google the default search engine on the iPhone and other iOS devices. (To be fair, the tech community has known about that deal for years, just not its exact size.)

That deal highlighted the peculiar relationship between the companies. Although they compete on a number of fronts, including mobile-device operating systems (the mobile world is essentially a duopoly between Apple’s iOS and Google Android) and mapping apps (Apple would dearly like its users to rely on Apple Maps as opposed to Google Maps), the two companies have a few arenas where they’re deeply joined.

In light of that, it’s worth resurfacing a question we’ve asked before: How much do software engineers make at Google and Apple? Both companies are among the most valuable in the United States, which means they can theoretically pay nearly anything to technologists with the right combination of experience and skills—for example, Google is well-known for paying millions of dollars to its engineers who helped build its initial autonomous-driving platform. 

Let’s start off by looking at Apple’s overall compensation for software engineers, from entry level all the way up to the highest tiers. For the purposes of this study, we’re utilizing data from levels.fyi, which crowdsources compensation data. (Although crowdsourcing isn’t the most scientific way of determining salary numbers, it does give us a ballpark estimation of pay; we also cross-check levels.fyi’s data against the crowdsourced numbers available via Glassdoor.)

And here’s the Google breakdown; as with Apple, the importance of stock to overall compensation increases in proportion with software engineers’ tenure. Although many technologists like jumping companies every few years, in search of a better deal or a fresh challenge, these numbers show why it’s potentially lucrative to stay in one place for an extended period of time—cumulative stock grants can translate into very serious money:

Of course, even the most amply-compensated software developer at Google earns only a fraction of what Google CEO Sundar Pichai pulls down, according to our latest breakdown. (Apple CEO Tim Cook also earns a hefty salary, it’s important to add.) No matter what your career aspirations, keep in mind that specialization is always key to unlocking higher pay tiers—especially if you have a skill-set that well-monetized companies like Apple and Google really want.