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Measuring Fitness on an iPhone 5s

In this week's Ask Walt column, I answer reader questions about fitness tracking on an iPhone, and the latest versions of Windows.

You have some tech questions, I have some answers. Every Friday, I try to resolve these mysteries, succinctly and in plain language. Please send questions to Note that I won’t be able to diagnose your personal tech glitches and problems. I also reserve the right to edit questions for length or clarity, and to combine similar inquiries.

Q. I like the benefits of using a fitness tracker, however, I would rather not wear a fitness bracelet to certain events. Most of the time, I have my iPhone 5s in my pocket. I was wondering if there is an app you know of that aggregates data from the M7 processor with data from a fitness tracker in order to improve the completeness of the data? Is it even worth wearing a fitness tracker if i have an iPhone 5s?

A. I don’t know of an app that combines the data from wearable fitness trackers with fitness data generated by using the iPhone 5s by itself, using the built-in M7 chip, which measures “motion data” from the phone’s accelerometer, gyroscope and compass. The apps I have seen that read the data from the M7 chip on the phone mainly measure steps you’ve taken, though some extrapolate from that to things like calories burned. But fitness bands can measure sleep and other things that the phone alone can’t, at least today.

So if you mainly use your fitness band to measure steps, and you carry your phone all the time, you may not need the band.

However, given Apple’s coming big initiative on health, which is due to arrive in iOS 8 in the fall, that may change. One feature of the project, called HealthKit, is supposed to consolidate data from multiple sources. And Apple itself is widely rumored to be planning its own health-oriented smartwatch, which would likely integrate deeply with the iPhone. So stay tuned.

Q. I am thinking of buying a new Windows PC. What’s the latest version of Windows?

A. The latest version is Windows 8.1, Update 1 (often called Windows 8.1.1). This edition takes a variety of steps to make life easier for mouse- and keyboard users of the traditional Windows desktop, rather than focusing heavily on the tablet-like, touch-centric Start Screen, which has confused or turned off many users. I am not privy to Microsoft’s plans, but the rumor mill suggests that there may be a further update to make Windows even more comfortable for traditional users. Similarly, it’s widely expected that Microsoft will bring out a whole new version, Windows 9 (or whatever it will be called), next year.

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