As the launch of Microsoft's Windows Phone "Mango" update approaches, the number of missing features keeps dwindling, with support for front-facing cameras and Wi-Fi hotspots now confirmed.
We've suspected that the next version of Windows Phones would support front-facing cameras, given that some upcoming Windows Phone handsets are rumored to have them, but the official word didn't come until this week at Microsoft's Tech Ed conference in New Zealand. There, a Microsoft staffer told Neowin and confirmed on Twitter that front-facing camera support was on the way.
The question now is what Microsoft will do with it. You'll recall that the company plans to acquire Skype, and a Skype app is on the way to Windows Phones. But Microsoft will probably want some kind of deep Skype integration, in the same way that Facebook messages and photos are blended into the Windows Phone software. If that's not ready by the time Mango launches, users might have to live without a native video chat function for a while. At least you'll be able to take photos of yourself.
As for Wi-Fi hotspots, WPCentral reports that a feature called "Internet Sharing" has already appeared in official versions of Windows Phone Mango, allowing users to connect laptops, tablets or other devices to the Internet over Wi-Fi. The hotspot feature supports up to five connections at a time and will shut off automatically if no one's using it. But it's a battery waster--most mobile phone hotspot functions are--and the final decision to support the feature will probably be up to wireless carriers. You can be sure they'll want to charge extra for the privilege.
I'm glad to see Microsoft's mobile platform make such huge leaps from the incomplete product that launched in 2010, adding features like multitasking, copy-and-paste, voice-to-text and HTML5 support. There are still some things that bother me about the OS, such as the inability to use Google search by default instead of Bing, but I'm definitely intrigued. Now all we need is some new hardware.