Nokia works with Facebook on tighter mobile integration

Support for the new feature will first become available on the N97 family

Users of some Nokia smartphones will be able to publish their locations and status updates directly to their Facebook accounts using a new Nokia application, the company said Wednesday.

The Lifecasting with Ovi application will be available for the Nokia N97 and Nokia N97 mini via Nokia Beta Labs. The Nokia N97 mini is a slightly smaller version of the existing N97. It will ship in October and has a QWERTY keyboard just like the larger version.

Social-networking support has quickly become a must on new smartphones and is the biggest driver for mobile services, said Nokia Executive Vice President Anssi Vanjoki during a keynote speech at the Nokia World conference in Stuttgart, Germany.

He isn't the only one who thinks that. "Social networking will be the main driver for data services for a long time, and it doesn't matter whether it's in prepaid or post-paid," said Geoff Blaber, an analyst at CCS Insight.

IDC's Francisco Jeronimo also agreed.

"There is a strong interest from end users, and that is one of the biggest reasons why some consumers are replacing their devices for smartphones," he said.

But Nokia isn't the only phone vendor is trying to sell phones by supporting social networks. On Tuesday, Samsung announced the Corby, which will cost €150 ($US210) and comes with widgets for the three big social networks: Twitter, Facebook and MySpace.

Nokia's work with Facebook further reflects its decision to embrace third-party solutions and more deals are to be expected, according to a CCS Insight research note.