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Windows Phone 8 Leak Reveals Improved Camera, 3-D Maps

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Microsoft has kept mum on Windows Phone 8 since its initial announcement in June, but now the Windows Phone 8 SDK (software developer kit) has leaked online, revealing an early look at what to expect from Microsoft’s upcoming mobile platform. The file, first posted today by Chinese site WPXAP and reported by WPCentral, is an SDK for Windows Phone 8 Developer Preview that was hosted on Microsoft’s servers.

The leaked SDK confirms much of what Microsoft has already announced, including native code support, Marketplace capabilities such as in-app purchasing, SD-card support, and new APIs for speech recognition. But the developer documents also mention some unannounced Windows Phone 8 changes and features, such as camera and lens improvements and Nokia Maps capabilities.

Windows Phone 8 will get an improved, built-in camera experience that developers will be able to tap into with their apps. There’s an entirely new camera API in the Windows Phone 8 Developer Preview that makes it possible for apps to get real-time access to a phone’s video stream, camera features such as ISO and exposure, and multiframe capture. Developers will also be able to build new “lenses,” apps that add features like effects, filters and computational photography to the on-board camera. (Think Instagram-style photo processing.)

The developer documents also offer insight into Nokia Maps features, such as a new 3D-mode. Considering the moves Google and Apple are making in the mapping space, it makes sense for Microsoft to ensure that its mobile platform has equal or better mapping capabilities. Nokia Maps will be the default mapping system on all Windows Phone 8 devices and developers will be able to use a new API to access features like driving directions directly in their apps.

WP Central and Paul Thurott at Winsupersite installed the Windows Phone 8 emulator, revealing several other minor changes in the mobile platform’s user interface and apps. The Data Smart app, which allows you to track your mobile data usage, is now apparently called Data Sense. As expected, Zune branding has vanished from the Music app. There’s the new Wallet app, Internet Explorer 10, and naturally, the new Start Screen.

Other smaller changes revealed in the leak include peer-to-peer Bluetooth sharing, and new app capabilities — third-party app developers will be able to access lockscreen notifications, apps will be able to work in the background, and apps will have access to Windows Phone’s media library to add and delete photos, music, video and audio.

Microsoft has yet to announce Windows Phone 8′s official release date, but reports are pointing to a November launch.

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