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Nokia shows phones, eyes Facebook access

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Nokia, the world’s largest handset maker, unveiled four new multimedia phones on Monday and said it was in talks to offer phone access to social networking site Facebook.

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Nokia also launched its new free media-sharing service “Share on Ovi”, which it opened for live testing last week, and an updated version of its maps software, the world’s first pedestrian navigation system.

The media and mobile phone industries have been looking for user generated content boom on phones, but so far limited usage of Internet on handsets has put a lid on the potentially lucrative business.

Nokia unveiled at Mobile World Congress trade show a new N96 top-of-the-range model, successor to its top profit generator, the N95. It comes with 16 gigabytes of internal memory, and is expected to retail for around 550 euros ($800), excluding subsidies and taxes.

“The N96 comes to market in a timely way given the recent release of the 16 gigabyte iPhone,” said Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi.

Its new N78 model, a successor to the N73, Nokia’s top-selling multimedia phone, will start sales next quarter for around 350 euros.

Nokia has sold some 15 million N73 handsets.

The company also unveiled new mid-range phone models 6210 Navigator, to sell for around 300 euros, and the 6220 Classic with a 5 megapixel camera, priced at around 325 euros.

TALKING WITH FACEBOOK

Nokia’s Internet services head Niklas Savander said the firm was in talks with Facebook to improve access to the social network phenomenon from its cellphones.

“We are negotiating with them,” Savander told Reuters. “That is the application you and I would like to access from our cellphones.”

Nokia’s new own media-sharing site allows people to share photos and videos, and is built on technology acquired last year with the U.S. firm Twango.

“We have taken the know-how from Twango and put it on top of our mobile experience,” Savander said. “We have optimized mobile upload - you take a picture, click twice and it’s on the site.”

Nokia, which made 40 percent of all cellphones sold in the last quarter of 2007, is the first handset maker to make a major push into the content sector.

“Facebook is one of the most popular sites at the moment so this is not a surprise. It will be interesting to see how this fits in with what they want to do with Ovi,” said Gartner’s Milanesi.

Millions of users have downloaded songs, video clips, programs or documents since the company launched the Nokia music store and Mosh, a file sharing site, last year.

Reporting by Tarmo Virki; Editing by Quentin Bryar and Jason Neely

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