MONEY Shopping

CONTEST: Are You America’s Smartest Shopper?

All You America's Smartest Shopper presented by Samsung

MONEY's fellow Time Inc. publication, ALL YOU, is launching a contest to track down the country's savviest shopper, sponsored by Samsung. Here's how to enter.

Visit to share your best shopping tip and a photo that illustrates that tip. You can also enter on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #aysmartestshopper. Entries will be accepted from July 25th through August 15th.

ALL YOU will select 25 semifinalists who will be given a new Samsung Galaxy S5 to create a 60-second video that explains why they deserve the title of America’s Smartest Shopper. Those entries will be winnowed down to 10 finalists; ALL YOU, voters, and a panel of saving-savvy judges will determine the winner. The big reveal will air live on NBC’s TODAY show later this fall.

How to vote

Visit from September 17th until October 3rd to cast your vote.

The prizes

The winner will take home $1,000, plus a Samsung prize package that includes a Tab S 8.4 Wifi, Gear Fit and Smart TV.

Two runners-up will each receive $50, plus Tab S 8.4 Wifi, Gear Fit and Samsung Level headphones.

All three finalists will receive a trip with a guest to New York City, where the winner will be revealed live on NBC’s TODAY Show.



Should You Snap Up a (Cheap) Plasma TV Before They’re All Gone?

A visitor looks at a Samsung ultraslim plasma flatscreen television.
Jochen Eckel—Bloomberg

First Panasonic. Now Samsung. With the big makers dropping plasma, now could be a smart time to buy a TV.

Plasma TVs are going the way of the floppy disk, Walkman, and VCR. This month, Samsung announced that it would stop making plasmas by the end of November. Panasonic got out of the game last year. That leaves just LG to carry the plasma torch—and that probably won’t last. Indeed, by 2016, research firm IHS says plasma TVs will be completely vanish from the U.S. market.

So, with plasma on the way out, should you expect to start seeing killer discounts on TVs that use the technology? And, if you do spot a plasma bargain, should you buy it, or will you just end up with a 60-inch doorstop?

Plasma Prices

Let’s start with prices. No need to hotfoot it to Best Buy right now, according to industry watchers. Panasonic’s exit from the market didn’t have a significant effect on prices, says Ty Pendlebury of, and Samsung’s move is expected to be similarly uneventful, at least in the short term. However, that may change “at the very end,” Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis for the NPD Group. Eventually, retailers will be looking to move those last few plasmas to make room for newer stock and the markdowns will shift into high gear.

The average selling price for a plasma is currently $878, expected to drop 14% to $752 in 2015, according to IHS. On paper, plasmas seem more expensive than LCDs, which have an average price of $735. (A note: Some types of LCD TVs are often referred to LEDs. In this story, “LCD” refers to both types.) That’s misleading, though, because LCDs come in a range of sizes, while plasmas are only made in large (and thus expensive) sizes. When comparing TVs of similar size and quality, says Will Greenwald, who covers consumer tech for, plasma is cheaper.

The takeaway: If you’re in the market for a big TV, plasmas are a good deal and will likely get even cheaper. Just don’t expect to see fire-sale prices.

Is Obsolescence Really So Bad?

People who love plasmas–and they definitely exist–love them because they have great color contrast, a clear, sharp picture, and a wider “viewing angle” than LCD models, meaning you can sit further to the side of the screen without seeing a distorted image. However, they’re also massive energy hogs, and aren’t as thin or bright as other technologies.

The reason so many companies are dropping plasma has little to do with the technology itself. Rather, as LCD models have gotten better and cheaper to produce, it’s become less logical for manufactures to build and maintain factories capable of building only large, pricey plasmas.

Still, if you’re buying a technology that you know is headed for extinction, it’s worth considering what will happen if you need to get a new part for your plasma or have it repaired. Consumer Reports argues that TVs from the top brands are reliable and will continue to support their products. A Samsung rep echoed this, saying the company “will continue to provide support for our plasma TVs and our customer service policy will remain the same as before.” That said, it’s difficult to predict what repair options you’ll actually have.

So You Want to Buy

If you think a plasma could be the right buy for you, check out the Samsung F8500, which CNET dubs “the last great plasma TV.” Starting at $1,800 for the smallest 51-inch model, down from $2,700, “this TV is a very good value and will easily beat any LCD under $3,000 for picture quality,” says Pendlebury.


TIME China

Samsung Suspends China Supplier Over Child Labor

Customers attend a workshop about the Samsung Galaxy S5 in Jakarta
Customers attend a workshop about the Samsung Galaxy S5 in Jakarta, April 11, 2014. Beawiharta Beawiharta—Reuters

Samsung suspended ties with a Chinese supplier after a New York-based watchdog, China Labor Watch, reported that minors under 18 worked at the company during high demand and were underpaid.

(SEOUL, South Korea) — Samsung Electronics Co. said it has suspended business ties with a Chinese supplier that allegedly hired children.

The South Korean company, which is the world’s biggest smartphone maker, said in its blog Monday that it had found possible evidence of child labor and illegal hiring at Dongguan Shinyang Electronics Co.

Samsung said last week it would urgently look into the Chinese supplier following a New York-based watchdog’s report that it hired at least five children under the age of 16.

China Labor Watch said children as well as minors under 18 worked at Shinyang for three to six months to meet production targets during a period of high demand. The watchdog said the child workers were paid for 10 hours a day but worked 11 hours.

The report detailed 15 labor violations discovered during its undercover investigation. They included child labor, the absence of safety training, no overtime wages and no social insurance for temporary workers, who constituted at least 40 percent of 1,200 employees at the Chinese cellphone parts supplier for Samsung.

China Labor Watch’s report came shortly after Samsung said its audit found no child labor at hundreds of Chinese suppliers. Samsung began inspecting its Chinese suppliers after the labor watchdog raised the child labor issue in 2012.

Samsung said Chinese authorities are investigating the case and if the investigation finds child labor, Samsung will permanently stop doing business with Shinyang.

TIME Earnings

Samsung to Investors: Get Ready for a Sharp Decline in Profits

Visitors walk past a glass door showing the logo of Samsung Electronics at the company's showroom in Seoul on July 8, 2014. Jung Yeon-Je—AFP/Getty Images

The company warned falling demand could cause profits to tumble by as much as 27%

Samsung Electronics prepared investors for a third straight quarter of disappointing earnings, warning on Tuesday that operating profits could fall by as much as 27%.

The company took the unusual step of issuing a one-page explainer in advance of its second quarter earnings report. It blamed disappointing sales on a wider slump in demand across Europe and Asia, combined with an unfavorable exchange rate that made its products more expensive relative to cheaper phones flooding the market.

Samsung also said demand for tablets took a hit as sales of large smartphones, some with screens just an inch shy of tablets, cannibalized sales of its smaller, 7-to-8 inch tablets.

Samsung’s stock declined by 11% in the past month, though there are signs that investor pessimism may have bottomed out. The Wall Street Journal reports that the stock bounced back by a modest 2.1% in early trading Tuesday.

“The company cautiously expects a more positive outlook in the third quarter with the coming release of its new smartphone lineup,” Samsung concluded in its explainer.

TIME Smartwatches

5 Quick Impressions of an Android Wear Smartwatch

Jared Newman for TIME

Here's what it's like to wear a Google-powered smartwatch for a day.

A smartwatch isn’t the kind of thing you can review overnight. It takes a while to get a sense of how useful it is in daily life, how well the design works and how comfortable it feels.

But having spent the day with the Samsung Gear Live, one of the first smartwatches for Google’s Android Wear platform, I’m at least starting to form some first impressions. Here are a handful of things that come to mind after having Android Wear on my wrist for most of the day:

Deleting unwanted e-mails is my killer app: Like most other tech writers, my inbox is constantly overrun with junk–usually PR pitches that are incredibly boring or irrelevant. So far, the best part of Android Wear is the ability to delete these e-mails with a swipe and a tap, leaving only the messages that actually matter. My only complaint is that the delete confirmation stays on the screen for a half-second too long. In other words, I still can’t get rid of unwanted e-mails fast enough.

The “reach for your phone” instinct is tough to shake: There were a couple of times throughout the day when, out of instinct, I reached into my pocket see if I’d missed any notifications on my phone. Android Wear is supposed to prevent you from having to check your phone all the time, but I think this will be a tough habit to break.

I’m much more aware of Google Now, now: The problem with Google Now on a smartphone is that it’s trying to give you timely information, but you might not see it unless you take out your phone and open the Google Search app. With a smartwatch, those same Google Now cards are sitting on your wrist, where you’re far less likely to miss them. This can be annoying–I don’t constantly need to see, for instance, that my flight tonight is on time–but hopefully I’ll get enough useful tidbits to make Google Now’s presence worthwhile.

“Mute” is a must-have feature, but could be better: If we’re going to start strapping computers to our wrists, we’ll need a way to shut them off, letting people know that we won’t be constantly distracted. Cleverly, Android Wear lets you turn off notifications by swiping down from the top of the screen. It’s a great feature for any smartwatch, but it leaves me wondering why it doesn’t silence my smartphone as well.

It’s unfinished: This is currently an unreleased product, so a few bugs and missing features are to be expected. So far, I haven’t been able to get directions on the watch or respond to text messages by voice. Many apps aren’t optimized for Android Wear yet, and some of the features Google has announced won’t be available until later this year, including the ability to skip the password screen on a paired Android phone or Chromebook.

I also realize I haven’t scratched the surface of what Android Wear can do. As I spend more time with the watch, I’ll be looking for apps that work well, and testing things like Chromecast playback and music controls. The LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live both launch on July 7, so consider these impressions a work in progress–kind of like Android Wear itself.

TIME World Cup

Samsung Didn’t Hear About Landon Donovan Being Cut from U.S. Team

The company wished the striker good luck in tonight's World Cup clash with Portugal — except he's not on the U.S. team

U.S. soccer star Landon Donovan didn’t make the World Cup team, but Samsung didn’t seem get the memo and wished him luck anyway in an embarrassing social media flub.

“Best of luck to Landon Donovan & the USA team,” tweeted SamsungMobileArabia, the electronics company’s account based in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Samsung’s #GALAXY11 campaign featuring Donovan and other international soccer stars in space-suit-like outfits first appeared in 2013.

Instead of going to Brazil as part of the 23-man team, Donovan has been spending his summer working as an analyst for ESPN. His exclusion from the roster, however, has been a source of controversy.

It could have been worse, though: At least there wasn’t a photo of a giraffe involved.

TIME Computers

Samsung Chromebook 2 Review: Almost Worth the Price

Jared Newman for TIME

I really thought this would be the one.

When Samsung announced the Chromebook 2 a couple months ago, it seemed to be the mid-range device that we’d been missing since Samsung discontinued its Series 5 550 last year. The 13-inch version is currently the only Chromebook with a 1080p display, and it comes in a slick package that mimics Samsung’s most expensive Windows-based laptops. I was hoping these features would justify the $400 price tag.

After using Samsung’s 13-inch Chromebook 2 for several weeks, I’m conflicted. The Chromebook 2 is a solidly-built machine with an impressive balance of weight and battery life, but it also has a couple of problems that keep me from giving it a wholehearted recommendation.

Let’s start with the display. On paper, the 1920-by-1080 panel should be the Chromebook 2’s strongest selling point. Not only does it make everything sharper, it allows the taskbar and icons to be smaller, leaving more room on the screen for actual webpages.

But like so many other laptops that cut corners on price, the viewing angles on the Chromebook 2 are atrocious. As you shift your position, you have to constantly adjust the screen to avoid having the colors wash out. The screen looks especially bad when watching videos or looking at dark webpages. It’s by far the biggest problem with this laptop, and a huge letdown for what should be a killer feature.

One other minor complaint about the display: By default, the high pixel density made text a little small for my liking, and I have pretty good vision. Increasing page zoom to 125 percent in Chrome settings made things more readable; it should probably be set this way by default.

Aside from the display, the build quality of the Chromebook 2 is superb. The island-style keys have just the right amount of travel and snappiness, and the keyboard hardly flexes at all under heavy pressure.

Below the keyboard is a spacious trackpad that’s smooth to the touch. You can click on the trackpad almost all the way up to the top without having to apply too much pressure, and it supports two-finger scrolling and clicking. (You can also tap the trackpad instead of depressing it.) Overall, it’s fantastic.

The Chromebook 2 is fairly light for a 13-inch laptop, weighing in at 3.1 pounds. That’s 0.2 pounds lighter than Toshiba’s 13-inch Chromebook, though it’s the same weight as Asus’ 13-inch Chromebook that’s due out later this month. (Both of those laptops, however, have 1366-by-768 resolution displays.)

Jared Newman for TIME

Samsung’s Chromebook 2 is also one of the slimmest Chromebooks around, at 0.65 inches, and its bottom half has the same contoured edges found on Samsung’s Ativ Book laptops. Aesthetically, I’m not crazy about the “titan gray” finish–I’d prefer the white or black color options of the 11-inch model–and the faux-stitching makes less sense on a laptop cover than it does on Samsung’s Galaxy phones.

Unlike most other laptops, the Chromebook 2 uses an ARM-based octa-core Exynos processor, a lot like what you’d find in a high-end tablet. This allows it to run quietly with no fan, and despite the high-resolution display it still lasts for more than eight hours on a charge.

That processor does have a downside, in that it’s less powerful than your average laptop. Depending on your needs, this might not be a major issue. I generally didn’t have a problem scrolling through webpages, editing Google Docs or juggling a bunch of browser tabs. But I did notice occasional sluggishness when loading heavy pages and switching between tabs. Compared to Samsung’s original Exynos-based Chromebook, which had a slower processor and just 2 GB of RAM instead of 4 GB, the Chromebook 2 is still a big step up.

For connectivity, the Chromebook 2 has two USB ports–one on each side–along with HDMI output and a headphone jack. There’s also a microSD card slot, though I wish Samsung had included a full-sized SD slot instead. The speakers are loud and clear enough for video, but like most laptops, you won’t get much bass when listening to music.

If Samsung had only shipped a higher-quality display with the Chromebook 2, I could have fallen in love with this laptop. I’m a sucker for build quality, especially when it comes to the keyboard and trackpad, and I could have forgiven the middling performance, given that it’s still good enough for most basic web browsing. Chromebooks can’t do everything that a Windows laptop or MacBook can–you can’t install desktop software, which rules out programs like Office and iTunes–but the simplicity of a browser-based operating system has its own advantages. The Chromebook 2 could have been the perfect machine for users who want to spend a little more.

Instead, I’m wishing Samsung had tried just a little harder to make the ultimate mid-range Chromebook. This one is frustratingly close.

MONEY Shopping

Amazon Fire Phone Seem Too Pricey? Discounts Bound to Come Soon

Amazon Fire Smartphone with 3D map feature
An Amazon representative shows off the 3D map features of the company's new Fire smartphone at the company's campus in Seattle, Washington June 18, 2014. Jason Redmond—Reuters

If you think the brand-new Amazon phone is too darn expensive, sit tight. Discounts and promotions are bound to pop up within a few months, if not sooner.

Jeff Bezos unveiled the long-awaited Amazon Fire Phone on Wednesday, and the reaction in tech and consumer circles has been near universal: The phone has some very cool features, but at a price point starting at $199, with a two-year AT&T contract required, it simply costs too much to make a big impact on the smartphone market.

The “uninspired price tag is a surprising disappointment,” wrote the New York Times’ influential Farhad Manjoo, pronouncing the Amazon Fire phone a “missed opportunity.” It’s “Just Too Expensive,” a tech column Huffington Post headline declares bluntly.

Sure, the Amazon phone hasn’t even been released for sale yet, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to start thinking about when it will be discounted. As anyone who follows the consumer electronics world in general—and smartphones and Amazon in particular—might guess, the Fire Phone is not likely to remain in the “too expensive” category forever. It’s not a matter of if but when the discounts and deals appear.

According to Louis Ramirez, senior editor at the deal-tracking site, the typical Android phone experiences a 50% price drop after two months on the market, and what “with better and cheaper Android phones being released every other month,” the pace of markdowns is on the rise. “The Galaxy 5S, for instance, saw multiple 50% discounts just one month after its release.”

Because this is Amazon’s first phone, and because AT&T is the exclusive provider, it’s not likely the phone will be discounted that aggressively in the near future, but experts foresee bundled deals and/or short-term promotional price drops fairly soon. “I think around the holidays is definitely a safe bet,” Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodali, a leading analyst in e-commerce for Forrester Research said via e-mail. (A note “Sent from my iPhone,” btw.)

Ramirez says that Amazon regularly hosts a “Penny Pincher” smartphone sale around Black Friday, when popular Android phones are sold for 1¢ when signing a two-year contract. “Now that they have their own phone,” Ramirez says of Amazon, “it’s very likely that phone will join their Black Friday sale. They may not cut it down to a penny, but you can expect it to see steep discounts come November.”

(MORE: Four Theories on What Amazon and Jeff Bezos Are Really Up To)

Forrester’s Mulpuru-Kodali agrees with the consensus take that the current Amazon Fire Phone price point is too high. But she stressed there was solid reasoning for why it wasn’t set cheaper. “That’s so they have room to bring the price down if units don’t move,” she said.

By putting an initial price on the Fire phone of $199 (with a two-year AT&T service plan) or $649 (with no contract), Amazon is also locking in the idea that this is how much the device is truly worth. The concept is called “price anchoring,” and it allows the seller to create the perception of an amazing, can’t-pass-up deal when the price is suddenly marked down. The J.C. Penneys and Kohl’s of the world make a regular habit of utilizing the tactic, in order to make their “sales” seem all the more impressive.

Smart consumers know to tune out these never-ending sales and just assume it’s unnecessary to buy anything at “full price.” Amazon generally doesn’t discount its devices left and right in this manner. On the other hand, Amazon doesn’t go the full Apple route either by offering discounts only on older gadgets—and only when a newer version is about to hit the market or has already been released. What Amazon tends to do instead is roll out deals here and there, somewhat randomly but regularly, so that consumers don’t think of the full price as a total joke, and so the discounts seem truly special.

(MORE: It Doesn’t Matter That Amazon’s Streaming Services Are Lame)

The folks at dealnews noted that the recently released Amazon Fire TV streaming device is likely to remain priced at $99 for quite some time, but that Amazon has already discounted it by including it in bundles packaged with an HDX tablet. They also say it’s all but guaranteed that the streaming device will be marked down during one or more holiday season promotions.

Complicating matters for Amazon is the fact that, as the (Jeff Bezos-owned) Washington Post pointed out, this is an especially difficult time to jump into the smartphone market. Pretty much everyone who wants a smartphone already has one—likely one that they’re pretty happy with too, after switching and upgrading a few times. While many of the Amazon Fire phone’s features are indeed cool, it’s unclear how many people will summarily dump their Apple or Samsung phones for a device from Amazon, a company that has had some glitches when launching new products, as Bezos mentioned during Wednesday’s unveiling. “I’m a little skeptical that what they’re bringing to the table is enough to make people put down their current phone and change to a new device,” Gartner analyst Tuong Nguyen told the Washington Post.

Of course, one way to encourage people to switch phones is a substantial discount on the purchase price. Such a discount won’t bother AT&T, which makes its money via monthly subscriber bills. And it may not be anathema to Amazon, which in the long run makes its money not by selling devices but by getting consumers to do more and more of their shopping on its site. That’s the purpose of services like Amazon Prime, of course.

It’s no coincidence that Prime is included for a year at no charge with Amazon Fire Phone purchases. “Think of the Amazon Fire as a Prime subscription-selling machine that also happens to make phone calls and send text messages,” New York magazine observed. The phone’s Firefly feature, which allows the owner to scan almost anything imaginable and soon be able to purchase it via Amazon, was also obviously created with the idea of boosting Amazon sales into the next stratosphere.

If the tradeoff for such sales increases is that Amazon has to sell its phone at cost or take a loss during promotional sales, that’s a trade Amazon can probably live with. Anyway, for consumers, the moral is: If you like shopping at Amazon and like Amazon’s new phone but think it’s too expensive, don’t preorder it, and don’t pull the trigger within the first couple weeks it’s officially for sale. Wait a bit, and you’re sure to be rewarded with a better deal.

MONEY stocks

Four Theories on What Jeff Bezos and Amazon Are Really Up To


The big question was never what AMAZON.COM INC. AMZN 0.7844% would unveil on Wednesday. Most observers knew it was the company’s first smartphone, called the Fire Phone — the first smartphone on the market with a 3D display.

No, the real question is: What is CEO Jeff Bezos’ endgame?

Why does this online retailer, which has recently branched out into tablet computers and flying delivery drones, want to inch its way into the crowded smartphone space that Apple APPLE INC. AAPL -0.2338% and Samsung, two bigger companies with much deeper pockets, already dominate?

Theories abound, but here are the contenders:

Theory #1: Bezos wants to be king of all media — and advertising.

Most observers regard Amazon as either a retailer or an up-and-coming player in tech, thanks to its Kindle tablets and cloud computing service. But people forget the company’s roots are really in media — Amazon started out as a book seller with Bezos working out of a rented garage.

Big recent moves reinforce the notion that the company wants to dominate this space. Last week, Amazon launched a streaming music service that will compete with the likes of Spotify and Beats Music, which Apple just acquired.

The service will be offered free to Amazon Prime subscribers who pay $99 a year to get unlimited two-day shipping from the retailer. Those Prime members already get access to Amazon’s streaming video service that competes directly with Netflix NETFLIX INC. NFLX 2.3758% . (Like Netflix, Amazon has also begun to produce its own original content, like the show Alpha House, starring John Goodman).

Just as Kindles are starting to perk up Amazon’s overall media sales — on a quarterly basis, sales of video, books and other content are now growing 21%, up from 15% in 2012 — a smartphone would surely help boost streaming music.

Of course, you might be asking: Isn’t the media industry maturing? So why would Amazon want to double down on this business?

Well, it’s not just the content that Amazon desires — it’s the ability to sell online advertising against that content and on Amazon-controlled devices, which now includes a smartphone.

Jay Greene of The Seattle Times writes that while Google GOOGLE INC. GOOG 0.3091% and Facebook FACEBOOK INC. FB 1.3119% get all the attention for their potential to attract online advertisers, the data that Amazon has on “its 237 million active customer accounts…puts Google to shame.” He’s right. While Google and Facebook can tell advertisers what its customers like, Amazon can tell them what they actually buy…and when…and how frequently…and to a certain extent why.

By some estimates, Amazon will pull in close to $1 billion in online ads this year, which would put it well ahead of online advertising darlings such as Twitter TWITTER INC. TWTR 19.9793% and LinkedIn LINKEDIN CORP. LNKD 4.2005% .

Theory #2: Bezos wants to be king of tech.

So what if Amazon started life as a retailer? If anything, Bezos knows how to adapt.

And he knows that the profit margins for technology companies far exceed those for retailers.

^XIT Chart

^XIT data by YCharts

Amazon stumbled into being a tech company in a variety of ways. For instance, the servers and computing capacity needed to power’s retail operations early on gave birth to Amazon Web Services. That’s the company’s cloud computing business, which recently won a major contract from the CIA, beating out rival IBM, the mother of all tech services firms.

Meanwhile, the Kindle was developed as a vehicle to boost online book sales. And the company, which is constantly looking for ways to speed up delivery, recently purchased Kiva Systems, which makes robots that help automate and speed up the packing process at warehouses. Janney Montgomery Scott analyst Shawne Milne notes that Bezos wants “to significantly ramp the implementation of Kiva’s robots within Amazon’s fulfillment centers from 1,000 currently to 10,000 by the end of the year.” Milne says this technology could eventually end up saving the company anywhere from $450 million to $900 million a year in costs.

Okay, Amazon will have the cloud and warehouse robot markets cornered. How will this help the company compete in the saturated smartphone space?

It should be noted that critics raised similar concerns about tablets, yet the Kindle has been able to carve out roughly 7% to 8% share in this difficult space, which in turn has boosted Amazon’s digital media sales. Not only that, analysts believe that the larger Amazon eco-system that the Kindle has promoted now accounts for up to $8 billion in revenue for the company.

Besides, Amazon does not need to be the top dog in smartphones for this move to pay off. For instance, if the company were able to seize just 1% of that portion of the smartphone market that uses Google’s Android platform, that could lead to $1 billion to $1.5 billion in annual revenues, according to Janney Montgomery Scott. If Amazon managed to grab a mere 3% of the Android market, it could add nearly $5 billion in sales at a time when Wall Street is starting to question Amazon’s potential growth rate.

Theory #3: Bezos wants to be king of all distribution.

Amazon isn’t a retailer as much as it is a transactor.

For instance, Amazon created a platform and marketplace that allows the company to process transactions for tens of thousands of small businesses. Rather than viewing these mom-and-pop shops as competitors, Amazon offers its services to them in exchange for a cut of each purchase. So anytime a retail transaction is made online, there’s now an even better chance that Amazon will profit from it. Edward Jones analyst Josh Olson describes the company’s global distribution network as a “real moat” that gives the company a competitive edge.

The same principle works for cloud computing, where Amazon is happy to distribute server capacity to competitors such as Netflix in exchange for a fee. Therefore, whether its rival grows or shrinks, Amazon wins.

The strategy also applies to the new online payment service that Amazon launched this month, which will compete with eBay’s Paypal. And the same goes for AmazonSupply, a B2B site that Amazon is quietly building to get a cut of the $7 trillion market for supplying businesses.

And ditto for smartphones, which are devices that will allow Amazon to process millions of new transactions — be it for digital content or general merchandise.

Theory #4: Bezos is trying to buy time.

Think of it as a big shell game. While Bezos is on stage trying to dazzle you with a 3D smartphone, or with a new streaming music business, he wants investors not to focus on where the ball actually is.

And right now, the metaphoric ball is Amazon’s nearly non-existent profit margin. For instance, take a look at Amazon’s profit margin versus that of rival Apple:

AMZN Profit Margin (Quarterly) Chart

AMZN Profit Margin (Quarterly) data by YCharts

For years, Wall Street was content to bid the stock higher — despite the fact that the company barely turns a profit — as long as revenues soared. The belief was that near-term profits weren’t the point with a company like Amazon, which has been dutifully spending money to build out the necessary infrastructure to make Bezos’ long-term plans work.

AMZN Profit Margin (Annual) Chart

AMZN Profit Margin (Annual) data by YCharts

Last year, though, the company earned just $274 million off of revenues of nearly $75 billion. Investors have started losing patience, as seen by the performance of Amazon shares.

AMZN Chart

AMZN data by YCharts

Earlier this year, Colin Gillis, an analyst with the brokerage BGC Partners, even raised the question: “Is Amazon losing its status as a growth stock?”

For Bezos, then, this flashy foray into smartphones may be a way to distract investors from the realization that it may take years for Amazon to convert its revenues into real profits.

Amazon shares trade at a price/earnings ratio of nearly 500, based on the past 12 months of actual profits. While Wall Street may tolerate that in a fast-growing tech company, they won’t in a barely profitable retailer.

So, smartly, Bezos is choosing to play the tech card — at least until the retail profits materialize.

MONEY Amazon

WATCH: Amazon Smartphone Will Be Exclusive to AT&T

Amazon's first smartphone will launch exclusively on AT&T according to multiple reports.

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