How To Turn Your Smartphone Into Your Personal Therapist

Could the technology that causes so much of our stress and anxiety also be the cure?

Last spring, Paul Ford was sick of the self-sabotaging, disparaging voice in his head, so he decided to do something about it. He’d been living with anxiety all his life, but it was getting in the way of his professional career. So Ford, a longtime tech tinkerer, decided to turn his anxiety into a bot that he named AnxietyBox.

Ten times a day, at random he’d receive an email from his Anxiety with subject lines like: “Ask yourself, do you always want to be exhausting to know and undesirable?” The messages were nasty and uncannily channeled that negative voice in his head. “Dear Paul,” one email read. “I heard you when you talked about how you wanted to exercise. Where would you put your chances for success? Zero percent? Greater?”

Psychologists call these negative voices “cognitive distortions”—moments when your thinking goes awry and your anxiety gets the best of you.

Ford was just trying out a silly experiment, yet with a little distance between that negative voice and himself (about as much space as you give yourself from your email inbox), he could see just how disparaging and mean so many of his anxious thoughts were. Suddenly they didn’t have as much power over him. “My thing sends you emails that tell you you’re garbage,” he says. “You start to laugh at how bad your anxiety is.”

When Ford talked about AnxietyBox on the podcast Reply All in January, and the story was rebroadcast on This American Life, he struck a cord with listeners. Clinical psychologists have reached out to him, and more than 7,000 people have signed up for AnxietyBox, a volume that’s currently too big for Ford and his bot to accommodate.

The Anxiety Epidemic

There’s a zeitgeist of self-betterment through technology that our culture is embracing these days. And for good cause. If we were anxious before smartphones, we might be even more anxious with them. Studies have looked at the link between tech use and elevated levels of stress and anxiety. A 2015 research study demonstrated a measurable connection between negative psychological and physiological outcomes and iPhone separation.

But there’s also a growing interest in how technology can actually treat our anxiety. The list of relaxation, mindfulness, and meditation apps is long and growing. With 40 million Americans suffering from anxiety, and the mental health care industry raking in $200 billion in the U.S. alone, it’s no wonder the tech world is scrambling to find a way to digitize the therapy process.

Online Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Online therapy programs have been around for years, and they’re becoming increasingly sophisticated and refined in order to work more effectively for users. There are many programs out there claiming to offer relief from anxiety, but their effectiveness isn’t entirely clear. Research out of Sweden, Germany, and the Netherlands has shown that when used properly, online Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which helps people detect negative thoughts or patterns and learn to redirect them, can be as effective as face-to-face treatment.

Online Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which helps people detect negative thoughts or patterns and learn to redirect them, can be as effective as face-to-face treatment.

A recent New York Times Opinionator piece outlined some of the effective CBT treatments being used, like MoodGYM out of Australia and Beating the Blues, which teach cognitive behavioral therapy skills to help people cope with and prevent anxiety and depression.

A Therapist In Your Pocket


Pacifica App

More recently, developers have been trying to find ways to merge effective online treatment with user-friendly mobile interfaces. In January, for example, the app Pacifica launched, attempting to offer more than just relaxation tools, but actual ways to use CBT to help treat anxiety. “The mind has a tendency to play tricks on us,” says psychologist Ross Nelson, who serves as a health consultant and adviser to Pacifica. “When we are experiencing anxiety, it’s a series of mind tricks.” The features on Pacific are offered as tools to “untwist the tricks” of the mind, says Nelson.

The app, designed by 28-year-old Chris Goette, who says he’s “white-knuckled” his way through much of his life as an anxiety sufferer, includes a mood tracker, a feature that lets you record your voice and listen back for cognitive distortions, relaxation tools, and a community space where users can connect anonymously. Goette, who’s tried every form of treatment he could over the years, from dietary changes to therapy to meditation, says CBT worked best in treating his anxiety, which is why he wanted to create an app that mirrored its effects using your smartphone.

Pacifica offers a free version with rotating features and a $4 monthly subscription that gives users access to all the app features. Since its launch, the app has signed up 230,000 registered users.

Using Your Camera Phone to Measure Stress Levels

Other app developers are trying to take a less traditional approach, incorporating technology in more unusual ways. A new app called Mentally claims to transform your phone’s camera into a biomedical sensor that can look into your bloodstream when you cover the lens with your finger, offering a stress assessment and five-minute breathing regimen personalized to your own stress level. Whether this kind of thing has any science behind it isn’t entirely clear, but what’s certain is we’ll be seeing increasingly inventive and sophisticated ways in which tech entrepreneurs are attempting to break into the mental health industry.

With so many options available at the swipe of your phone screen, there’s ample room to experiment, see what works best for you, and at the very least, start to isolate that anxious voice. “A lot of people have great intentions in trying to improve upon their anxiety and aren’t really sure how to do it,” says Nelson. With a smartphone at your disposal, you’ve got more options than you imagined.



Windows 10 on the Surface Pro 3: Now the 2-in-1 makes perfect sense

The Surface Pro 3 is already one of our favorite mobile PCs, but if there’s anything to criticize, it’s its dual-natured Windows 8.1 software. But what happens when you replace that with the upcoming Windows 10? Based on our time with the latest previews, we think it could transform the Surface into the futuristic mobile productivity device that Microsoft has been trying to build for years.


Windows 8 (and its incremental follow-up, Windows 8.1) had a black & white approach to tablet/PC hybrids like the Surface. Windows 7-like desktop OS on one side, Windows Phone-like tablet OS on the other. The two UIs felt like they were coming from opposite sides of the universe (not to mention different eras), with no continuity and too many confusing transitions.

Windows 8 did make more sense on 2-in-1s than it did on non-touch PCs. But even on the Surface it still felt like you were looking at a painting where Jackson Pollock created one side and Andy Warhol the other. Each can be brilliant within its own gallery, but try to put them both on the same canvas and you just get spilled soup.

Windows 10 fixes all of that. Skipping “Windows 9” and branding it as “10” may be a smart way to distance Microsoft from the Windows 8 fiasco, but it’s also an accurate reflection of just how big a step forward the update is.

In Windows 10 the desktop gets a modern makeover, borrowing the dark menu backgrounds and Segoe UI font from the tablet UI, while the tablet side steals a few UI elements from the desktop (like a touch-friendly taskbar and browser toolbars). When added up, these cosmetic details create the consistent interface we all missed in Windows 8.

And when you attach or detach the keyboard, Windows automatically switches between desktop and tablet mode, with individual apps following suit (they’ll automatically go into full-screen in the tablet UI and a more traditional windowed view in the desktop UI). Gone is the jarring transition between old Windows and future Windows.

You may have already known all of this, but until you’ve used Windows 10 on a Surface, it’s hard to grasp just how seamlessly it all flows together. These little details combine to create the experience that some would say the Surface should have provided all along.

Perhaps Microsoft did rush its Windows 8 strategy to try to compete with the iPad (which, at the time Windows 8 was in development, looked like the future of computing), but you could also argue that Windows 10 wouldn’t be possible without the 2-in-1 groundwork that the clunky Windows 8 laid. It’s nearly impossible to see Microsoft, several years ago, jumping from the desktop-only Windows 7 to the seamless, beautiful and 2-in-1-friendly Windows 10.

Either way, if you dismissed 2-in-1s up to this point, it may be time to question whether it was the idea you were rejecting, or simply Microsoft’s messy implementation of it in Windows 8. Because we think Windows 10’s smoother execution is going to convert some true 2-in-1 believers.

Windows 10’s handwriting recognition could be another underrated update for Surface owners. It makes it easier to enter text using only the tablet and Surface Pen, cutting down on the annoyance of repeatedly reattaching the keyboard when you’re trying to use the device as a pen-based tablet. And since you can leave the handwriting input box open at the bottom of the screen while you do other things (taking up relatively little space on the Surface Pro 3’s huge screen), it’s easy to quickly jump in and out of handwriting when you’re, say, working in a Photoshop file where you’re primarily writing with the pen but also need some occasional text entry.

This simple change gives the Surface Pen a place of prominence that it didn’t have up to this point. The pen-based productivity tablet is something Microsoft has been aiming for since long before the iPad came along – and though the Surface has done a better job than anything else so far, it never completely lived up to that promise.


There are still many unknowns facing the consumer release of Windows 10. How will the Microsoft Edge browser (known in the previews as Project Spartan) shape up in its final iteration? Will desktop users be quick to forgive the touch UI nightmare they were forced to endure in Windows 8? Will the company get Windows 10 to a completely stable place by the time July 29 rolls around (the public preview builds are still fairly buggy, even at this late stage)? And will Microsoft have a Surface Pro 4 to sell alongside the big software launch?

No matter how those unknowns play out, from where we stand now it looks like Microsoft has steered its ship back on course with Windows 10, and could be on-track for an enormous brand-redeeming update. Windows 10 will be a sigh of relief for desktop users, but it also paves a road of prominence for the Surface that we hadn’t seen before.

With Windows 8, we could kinda see a future where 2-in-1s might have a prominent seat at the table. But with Windows 10, it’s hard to imagine 2-in-1s like the Surface not playing a central role in the future of computing.


The only two reasons to buy an Apple Watch, for now

The Apple Watch’s biggest challenge is living up to its own hype. We cut through the euphoric Apple rhetoric and break down the two things it does best.

In its first month, the Apple Watch quickly became the best-selling smartwatch on the planet — even if that’s not saying much yet. But, there are still plenty of people trying to decide whether it’s worth getting one. There are only two reasons to buy an Apple Watch at this point. Let’s break them down.

1. Better activity and health tracking

The No. 1 reason to get an Apple Watch is better activity and health tracking. One of the biggest challenges of professional life is too much sitting and not enough movement. In addition to the negative health issues this can lead to, the benefits of both standing and walking have been widely reported in recent years. Both can help boost your creativity and productivity.

Health trackers like the FitBit have helped people be more active by making them aware of how much — or how little — they are moving during the day. While the FitBit has straightforward daily goals around steps, miles traveled, and calories burned, the Apple Watch takes a slightly different approach. It focuses on a Move goal (calories burned by moving around), an Exercise goal (how much time you spend being active), and a Stand goal (how much you spend not having your butt planted in a chair). But, the best thing the Apple Watch does is turn this into a circular graphic that gives you a quick visual of your daily progress.

The other great thing about health and activity tracking on the Apple Watch is Apple’s HealthKit, which you may know simply as the Health app. This acts as a data hub of health and activity data from your Apple Watch and various iPhone apps, and it can feed that data into other apps that you give permission. For example, if you use a great app like Lose It! to track what you eat every day, the Heath app can feed in data from Workouts on the Apple Watch as well as something like the awesome little exercise app Seven on the iPhone. Then, Lose It! will give you credit for those activities and up the number of calories you can consume for the day. So you can eat that donut without any guilt.

The one big drawback to the Apple Watch as an activity tracker is that it does not have GPS. That will rule it out for many serious runners. They’ll likely have to wait for a future version of the product. But, as a standard activity tracker, CNET tests found the Apple Watch to be among the most accurate on the market (when it’s calibrated).

Apple uses a glanceable graphic to show progress toward daily activity goals.


Image: TechRepublic

2. More efficient notifications

The second thing the iPhone excels at is notifications. A 2014 study by Tecmark found that the average smartphone user checks their phone 221 times a day. A lot of that happens when a notification or an alert triggers us to pick up the phone, and then we can get sidetracked on other things while we’re looking at it. Getting notifications on the watch does three things:

  1. It keeps you from missing important calls or texts, if you are polite and you keep your phone on vibrate when you’re in the office
  2. It allows you to send quick responses to text messages so that you don’t have to pull out your phone
  3. It lets you glance at your notifications, dismiss them if they are not important, and keep your phone in your pocket so that you can keep working

Apple Watch notifications aren’t perfect. Apple tries to be smart and not send the same notification to the phone and the watch, but this leads to notification fails at times. It would be better if it just did like Android Wear and always sent the alert to both, or at least made that an option in settings. Apple Watch notifications are also less interactive and full-featured than Android Wear, where you can actually expand an Gmail notification, for example, and quickly scroll the entire message. On Apple, you can only get a similar experience if have your email configured through Apple’s Mail app.

But what the Apple Watch lacks in detailed notifications, it makes up for in offering a lot of different types of notifications because of the breadth of third party apps. And, we should only expect that to expand in the months and years ahead.

It will also be worth watching to see the extent to which the Apple Watch becomes a true internet of things platform for checking into flights, making mobile payments, controlling your smart home, and becoming a key fob for your hotel room, your car, and your house, for example.

Final word

Keep in mind that the Apple Watch is an expensive smartphone accessory at this point and it’s not a must-have. But, it is a good tool to help make you more accountable for your daily health. And, it can also help avoid missing important messages — and even better, not get sidetracked by unimportant ones. Naturally, it’s up to you to decide if that’s worth $350 to $1,000 to you — depending on your style.


Oura ring watches you while you sleep


Sleep and activity monitors have a lot of advantages, but aesthetics often isn’t one of them. Many look like exactly what they are and even ones that are incorporated discretely in watches aren’t very popular with people who don’t want to wear watches in bed. Billed as the “world’s first wellness ring,” the Ōura ring takes a sleep and activity monitor and hides it inside a piece of finger jewelry that makes the technology unobtrusive and unself-conscious.

The Ōura ring was developed by Finnish industrial designer Harri Koskinen and Ōura co-founder and CTO Kari Kivelä, and is based on three decades of R&D by Finnish wellness technology companies. Its purpose is to monitor sleep balance, activity, relaxation, and recovery using a stand-alone computer that performs functions previously requiring separate devices.

The Ōura ring itself is made of a zirconium ceramic that the company says is waterproof and harder than steel, yet comfortable to wear. It incorporates a laboratory-level sleep monitor, activity tracker, and heart rate monitor, as well as medical-grade pulse-oximeters to measure blood-volume pulse. It has an internal battery that charges in 30 to 60 minutes and runs about three days. The ring’s presentation box also acts as a charger.

The Ōura ring communicates with an Android or iOS app, however it does not require the presence of a smartphone to operate. Instead, the ring has a memory buffer and downloads to the phone when it’s nearby. The app provides day and night readouts of heart rate, brain activity and body temperature, as well as advice on how to improve sleep and performance.

“We wanted to create a product so effortless and comfortable that people would wear it 24/7,” says Petteri Lahtela, Ōura CEO. “The unique combination of form factor, latest high-end technology and deep understanding of human physiology applied with groundbreaking algorithms makes Ōura the only product capable of interpreting your body responses in different situations. Ōura can help you understand how your body reacts to your lifestyle and behavior. By combining your subjective feedback of how you feel with physiological and behavior data measured by the ring, it provides you with actionable insights that help in increasing your readiness to perform at your best, and balance your life.”

The Ōura ring will be available for US$250 in US sizes 6 to 13, and a choice of white, gloss black, and matte black. Preorders begin at the end of July or beginning of August with delivery scheduled for October.

Source: Ōura

10 Apps You Probably Didn’t Know Can Earn You Extra Money

You probably already know that there are apps you can use not only for entertainment, but for earning extra money or saving some. But, you may not know about these apps, which are some of our favorites. Check out these 10 killer apps you can use to save or make extra money in your spare time.

  1. Foap

Download links: Android | iOS

This is an app that allows you to make money by taking photos. You can charge as much as you like per photo, which means that your money-making opportunities through Foap are virtually limitless. People are always looking for a huge variety of photos, and you may be surprised at how much money you can make with a photo of your cat.

  1. Bookscouter

Download links: Web-Based

If you have old books you want to get rid of, use this app to sell them. Scan the barcodes with your smartphone, and Bookscouter will let you see comparisons of payouts from more than 20 book buyback companies. Once you find the best offer, fill out some information about where payments should be sent, and ship the books to the buyback companies.

  1. Fieldagent

Download links: Android | iOS

This is a great app that can help you earn money. From the main navigation window you can locate jobs through the “Jobs List” or through the ”Map View.” Select a job to see additional details and accept it. Once a job has been selected, you will have two hours to complete the task. Be sure you’re near the objective before you start the task.

  1. Cash For Laptop

Download links: Web-Based

You can make extra money by selling your old laptop, and this app will let you do it. Simply select the type of device you wish to sell, add a description of the device, pack it up and ship it (free of charge), and get paid with a cheque or Paypal.

  1. Expensify

Download links: Android | iOS

If you are having problems with your expense reports, you can save time and money by using Expensify. This app lets you capture receipts, track time and mileage, track business travel, create expense reports, and more. Using this app will allow you to get these things done quickly, so you can spend more time actually making money.

  1. Ibotta

Download links: Android | iOS

Take photos of your receipts and receive rebates using this app. Sign up for a free account, download the mobile app, and click on “Rebates”. Here you will find loads of great offers. Rebates will vary depending on the product and the promotion.

  1. Casual

Download links: Web-Based

You might be surprised, but the project management app Casual saves a great amount of money by helping reduce fails with deadlines and problems with the team. Casual helps handle tasks and projects in a new way: plan your tasks just by drawing them as flowcharts. Amazing feature is that Casual helps visualize dependencies between tasks. Become much more productive by using it.

  1. Receipt Hog

Download links: Android | iOS

This is a lot like Ibotta, because you can take photos of receipts and get rewards points for Paypal or Amazon gift cards. Unlike Ibotta, you don’t have to shop at specific stores. You can shop anywhere, and still earn points. But, it is slower to cash out than it is with Ibotta.

  1. Ncponline

Download links: Android | iOS

Earn rewards points as a panelist for Ncponline. Scan your purchases, and send the data in to get points. You may also be contacted occasionally for opinions. You can make money through this app, and it only takes an hour each week. You get points for every interaction, and when you have enough points, you can cash them in for rewards.

  1. i-Say Mobile

Download links: Web-Based

When you need a survey app, this is definitely the one to choose. It is from the Ipsos company, which does much of the polling during presidential races. If you have some free time, you can make money completing surveys. Or, you can collect points, and redeem them for gift cards from Amazon, iTunes, etc., or cash them in through Paypal.


Tips and tricks to get more from Android Lollipop

Google may have taken the wrappers off Android M at Google I/O last month, but the next installment of its mobile operating system doesn’t even have a name yet, and it’s going to be several months before it starts appearing on devices. In the meantime, here are some of the most useful and powerful features in Android 5 Lollipop that you might not be aware of.

Enable on-body detection for smarter security


Since Lollipop arrived, some handsets have been given an extra feature called on-body detection – from Settings, tap Security then Smart Lock to see if your phone has it. What it does is keep your phone unlocked while you’re carrying it (by monitoring the handset’s movement), and the PIN or pattern code access requirement is only activated when you set it down.

Quiet notifications


Tap on either of the volume buttons on your Lollipop device and you’ll find a shortcut to a Priority mode. When it’s activated, all notifications show up as normal, but only apps you’ve marked as priority ones can make a noise (tap the cog icon to set this). You can enable the mode for a specific period, until the next alarm (if set), or indefinitely.

Check battery charge and drain times


Lollipop brings with it a host of new features for battery management, so make sure you’re making the most of them. Choose Battery from the Settings menu and you can check how much longer you’ve got left before you need to find a wall outlet, see the apps using the most juice, and activate the battery saver utility. While charging, the lock screen tells you how much longer to a full charge.

Check your data usage

If you like to keep an eye on the amount of data you’re getting through while not connected to Wi-Fi, Lollipop has a new feature to help. Pull down the notification panel from the top, then swipe down again to see your quick settings. Tap on the cellular data symbol to quickly see how much data you’ve used this month.

Use “OK Google” from anywhere

The “OK Google” voice shortcut can be handy when you need to run a search or do something quickly, and Lollipop lets you access it from anywhere on your phone if you want to. Launch the Google app, choose Settings from the app menu, and under the Voice heading you can set the “OK Google” detection to be always on.

Use guest mode for friends and family

A4 guest

Android Lollipop works a bit more like your laptop or desktop computer as far as user accounts go, and that means if you need to hand your phone over to a friend or relative you can switch on guest mode: It keeps all of your own apps and settings safe while they play around. Drag down the notification panel and tap on your avatar to find it.

Hide sensitive data from the lock screen

Lollipop’s revised lock screen notifications make it easier to see what’s happening without unlocking your phone – but that also means anyone else can see this information too. Under Sound & notification in Settings you can tap the When device is locked option to hide sensitive content, or use the App notifications link to configure it app by app.

Search for settings

a5 settings

Lollipop comes with a bunch of useful settings to take advantage of, but they’re not always particularly easy to find. Handy then that Google’s added a search feature: Drop into Settings and you’ll see a magnifying glass icon you can use to search for specific options. You can search for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth networks by name too.

Pin apps

If you want to pass your phone over to someone else, but want to restrict them to one app or game, use screen pinning. You can switch it on from the Security menu in Settings, and the pin button is on the Overview screen (tap the square navigation icon to see it). Once pinned, you can’t leave an app without entering your phone’s PIN or pattern code.

Turn on the flashlight

Bad news, third-party flashlight app developers – there’s one included in Lollipop by default. Pull down the notification pane, then swipe down again and you’ll see it in the quick settings options (it’s called either Flashlight or Torch depending on where in the world you are). You can then navigate in the dark using your phone.

Change every volume level

One new feature Google added in the Android 5.1 update was the ability to change the system volume and notification settings while music (or other audio) is playing. Tap the volume buttons and you can adjust the music volume as normal, but now you can tap on the bell icon to change the notification volume separately.

Play Google’s Flappy Bird clone


And finally… if you haven’t yet discovered the Flappy Bird clone Google hid in Lollipop, you might want to give it a whirl. Go to Settings, open the About phone (or About tablet) menu, and quickly tap four times on Android version. At the lollipop, tap quickly several times then press and hold to get to the game, which is just as difficult as the original.


Pushing Pay by Phone: Apple, Google Add New Features

The tech industry has been saying for years that smartphones would make traditional wallets obsolete. But most people still use cash or plastic when they shop in stores.

That could change later this year when three leading tech companies are promising to give shoppers more reasons to use “digital wallets.”

Apple said last week that it’s adding store-issued credit cards and store rewards programs to Apple Pay (seen here), the mobile payments service it launched last fall. Google is readying a similar service for millions more smartphones to run on its Android software . And Samsung promises a service for its newest Galaxy smartphones will be accepted in more stores than both Apple Pay and Google’s Android Pay.

“Our ultimate goal is to replace the wallet,” Apple vice president Jennifer Bailey told software developers last week.

The new options come as numbers show mobile payments are still in their infancy: About 16 million U.S. shoppers used smartphones to pay for $3.5 billion in store purchases last year, according to the eMarketer research firm. That includes payments with Apple Pay, other services like PayPal and apps from merchants like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts.

While that’s a tiny slice of the $4.3 trillion spent in stores overall last year, eMarketer expects mobile payments will grow to $27.5 billion in 2016.

“We’re still in this very early stage of laying the groundwork to be able to make this happen,” said analyst Brian Yeager at eMarketer. “But there’s progress being made.”

The progress follows years in which the industry has struggled to get digital wallets off the ground as major players failed to agree on technical standards, security measures and financial terms. Some big merchants have balked at services developed by Apple or Google, saying they’d rather build and control their own system.

Still, Apple opened the door for widespread adoption of digital wallets last year when it launched Apple Pay with endorsements from major banks and retail chains. With Apple Pay, which only works on the latest models of iPhones and the Apple Watch, users link a credit card or bank account to their iPhone.

Once that’s done, a user only has to hold the phone next to a device at a store counter. The phone and the store device communicate wirelessly, prompting the user to authorize payment by pressing the phone’s fingerprint sensor instead of swiping a plastic card. Apple Pay uses encrypted codes to protect shoppers’ financial information.

Apple says shoppers and merchants have embraced Apple Pay, although it hasn’t released usage details.

One early fan is Allison Lucas, a 35-year-old tech worker who tapped her Apple Watch to pay for a box of breakfast cereal and other items at a Walgreens store in San Francisco’s Financial District last week.

“You don’t realize how much freedom it gives you until you try it,” said Lucas, who used her watch to pay for lunch on another day when she accidentally left her wallet at home.

But not everyone is convinced they need Apple Pay.

“I might come around and try it at some point, but I haven’t really seen a reason,” said Amalia Bornstein, a 29-year-old data analyst. Though she carried her iPhone 6 in hand as she walked along a busy San Francisco sidewalk, Bornstein said she still uses cash or plastic for most purchases.

Apple says it’s offering more reasons this fall with its next software update, which will let shoppers charge store credit accounts and redeem loyalty points from major chains. Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru said frequent shoppers see loyalty rewards as an important benefit, and they want an easy way to use them.

Walgreens expects more customers will pay with smartphones or watches when 80 million members of the chain’s Balance Rewards program will be able to use their loyalty points with Apple Pay, said Ben Weiss, Walgreens mobile products manager. J.C. Penney also is betting iPhone users will want to use their store-label credit cards. Spokeswoman Daphne Avila said the store’s own credit card is used on more J.C. Penney transactions than any other payment card, because customers earn points for every transaction.

Google, which had struggled to win support for its earlier Google Wallet service, says major banks and retail chains have signed on to its new Android Pay. The service will work similarly to Apple Pay when released later this year.

Google says it will incorporate store rewards, but won’t work with store credit cards to start. Android Pay will work on a variety of phones running the two latest versions of Android software — or about half of all Android phones in use.

Samsung, meanwhile, says it’s addressing another hurdle with a service called Samsung Pay, due for release this fall. Unlike rival services Apple Pay and Android Pay, Samsung says its technology will work with traditional store credit-card readers.

Apple Pay and Android Pay only work in stores with equipment capable of receiving data from smartphones via “near-field communication” or NFC radio. But new models of Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones will transmit two kinds of signals — one for NFC readers and one that works with older equipment that merchants use to read the magnetic stripe on credit cards.

Many smaller stores don’t have NFC readers. But Visa and MasterCard are pushing retailers to meet an October deadline for installing new terminals that read cards with embedded microchips, which are more secure than magnetic stripes. While the technologies are separate, many chip-card readers will accept NFC signals too.

Some experts are hopeful the changes will draw more shoppers to use digital wallets. But there remain some big challenges. For instance, Wal-Mart has declined to accept Apple Pay and is part of a consortium working on its own mobile payment system.

“It’s a chicken-and-egg problem,” said Yeager, explaining that shoppers won’t embrace a service if stores won’t accept it, while many stores want to know consumers and banks are backing a system before they invest in new check-out terminals.

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