Why no front-facing camera on first Windows Phones from Nokia?

There are no front-facing cameras on Nokia's first two Windows Phone handsets. Some users are asking why.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

As I noted in a Nokia World blog post from earlier today, there are no front-facing cameras on the Lumia 800 or 710 Windows Phones.

The big question among a number of attendees here is: Why not?

The answer, according to at least some Nokia representatives with whom I spoke at the show, is there just wasn't enough time to add it to the handsets.

Nokia has been hustling for months, trying to get its first Windows Phone out the door before the end of 2011. Even though Nokia knew Microsoft was in the midst of acquiring Skype -- making the need for a front-facing camera all the more urgent, one might think -- there were only so many things Nokia could pull off if it wanted to get its first phones out this year, representatives from the company said. (There were only so many things the company could manage in a relatively short amount of time is how one Nokia rep explained it.)

I've asked via the official channels whether there is a corporate statement from Nokia as to why there isn't a front-facing camera, but no word back yet.

Does the omission from the Nokia Lumia 800 and 710  mean there won't be a front-facing camera on Windows Phones that are part of Nokia's "portfolio" of products due in the U.S. in early 2012? No. But it also doesn't guarantee that any of the next Nokia Windows Phones will include those cameras, either.

See also: Nokia’s first Windows Phones: What’s there, what’s notPhotos: The Nokia World sales pitchNokia World: Live blogging the Day 1 keynoteNokia’s new Lumia 800, 710 Windows phonesFor outside the U. S. for now |CNET: Nokia’s Windows Phone push

Given that the N9, which is very similar to the Lumia (except that it runs MeeGo) does have a front-facing camera located at the bottom of the phone), I wondered if there might be something in the Windows Phone operating system that hindered Nokia's inclusion of a front-facing camera. That doesn't seem to be the case, however -- especially given the new HTC Titan and Radar Windows Phones do include front-facing cameras.

Neither Nokia nor Microsoft officials are sharing dates as to when the first Nokia Windows Phones will launch in the U.S., beyond saying it will be in early 2012. Nokia has said there will be CDMA and LTE Windows Phones next year but also won't provide more specific dates or names of which carriers will be offering these phones here in the U.S.

A Nokia spokesperson did say that there are reason Nokia decided to roll out its first Windows Phones in Europe and Asia before the U.S. Those reasons include brand preference (i.e., Nokia has more loyalty/brand recognition in those areas than the U.S.); language support; and giving priority to "markets where we expect to be popular").

I've also been wondering whether Nokia is planning its U.S. launch around Tango, the next version of the Windows Phone operating system that comes after "Mango." No one from Microsoft -- not even Windows Phone Corporate Vice President Joe Belfiore (pictured above) -- is publicly acknowledging the Tango codename (beyond drinking Tango soda here at Nokia World). But given that Tango 2 supposedly will help Microsoft and Nokia get the Windows Phone OS on lower-priced handsets, perhaps there's a connection there and Nokia is waiting for Tango before launching its full U.S. line-up....

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