In the technology sector, there are always new trends and fads, each with the promise of becoming "the next big thing." One of the more prominent emerging technologies over the past several years has been augmented reality (AR). Put simply, AR is the ability to combine the real world with a digital one. Two prominent examples of this technology are the popular mobile game Pokémon Go and the app Snapchat.
Because there are already use cases for AR, it's easy to see this as more of an ongoing trend than a passing fad. Therefore, it's natural for future-minded investors to seek ways to invest in the space. There are two companies that I think are particularly well positioned to be at the center of AR for years to come: Apple (NASDAQ: APPL) and Nvidia (NASDAQ: NVDA). Let's see which is the better stock to own.
Already one of the largest companies in the world, Apple has made an indelible mark on our society with its line of consumer electronics like phones, tablets, smartwatches, and computers. Part of what has made Apple so successful is its ability to consistently innovate and enter new product lines. At any given time, there are numerous rumors swirling around about what might be Apple's next big product.
Apple has long been expected to release some kind of AR product, likely in the form of glasses or goggles. Recently, Apple CEO Tim Cook made comments that seem to indicate something may be on the horizon, teasing, "I couldn't be more excited about the opportunities we've seen in this space. And sort of stay tuned and you'll see what we have to offer."
To be clear, rumors and vague interview comments are not an investing thesis, but Apple does have a track record of launching new products that go on to see great success. Additionally, Apple has been a player in this space for years, introducing AR capabilities on its iPhone and iPad starting in 2017.
Even without a confirmed AR product, Apple continues to be a good investment. In the second quarter of 2022, Apple posted a record $93.7 billion in quarterly revenue, a 9% year-over-year increase. That comes on top of 54% revenue growth in the year-ago quarter, and was driven by year-over-year growth in every product category other than the iPad. Additionally, Apple is trading for a price to earnings (P/E) multiple of 23, which is slightly below the S&P 500's average of 24.
From its start building PC graphics cards, Nvidia has grown to be a leading provider of chips for a variety of use cases, including gaming, data centers, and the automotive industry. As it pertains to AR, Nvidia's technology is already being used in a variety of ways by large enterprise customers. Nvidia's chips are powering virtual car showrooms, surgical training, and architectural walkthroughs, showing the everyday use cases for this technology.
One of the most commonly cited consumer uses for AR is in gaming, which comprises approximately 43% of Nvidia's sales. In Q1 of 2023, gaming revenue was a record $3.6 billion, good for a 31% year-over-year increase. One of the Nvidia products that led to this growth was its Nvidia RTX technology, which can help deliver AR experiences over 5G networks. As AR expands in the gaming space, Nvidia stands to benefit from the secular tailwinds.
Even after the tech sell-off we've seen this year, Nvidia trades at a premium, with its current P/E at 41. However, that is the lowest that multiple has been since late 2019. Nvidia grew its revenue more than 46%, is profitable, and generated more than $1 billion in free cash flow in Q1, so this premium price is to be expected.
Which is the better buy?
From a valuation standpoint, it could be argued that Apple is a bargain at its current valuation. That said, until we see an actual AR product, its role in this emerging technology is uncertain. For that reason, I think Nvidia is the better AR stock. It's already producing the chips that are powering AR technologies in a variety of industries and doesn't rely on one consumer product for its AR exposure. For investors who feel the premium valuation is worth it, Nvidia is my pick for the better augmented reality stock.