A Facebook smartphone in 2013?

The Facebook logo, photographed in Washington, D.C.
(AFP / Getty Images)

Can a Facebook smartphone solve Facebook’s mobile problem?

Just one week after Facebook’s less than stellar IPO comes news that the social network is beefing up its engineering staff in the hopes of releasing a Facebook smartphone by 2013.

Rumors and reports that Facebook has been working on building its own cellphone go back to 2010 when Tech Crunch reported that two high-level Facebook staffers had been tasked with developing a Facebook phone in secret.

The rumor resurfaced in 2011 when All Things D reported that the company was working with the Taiwanese cellphone maker HTC to create a cellphone, code-named “Buffy,” that has the social network integrated into “the core of its being.”

While Facebook refused to comment on Buffy specifically, the company did send All Things D the following statement: “We’re working across the entire mobile industry; with operators, hardware manufacturers, OS providers, and application developers to bring powerful social experiences to more people around the world.”

Not exactly a denial.

Now, it seems Facebook is dedicating more resources to its phone project. The New York Times reports that the company has hired more than half a dozen former Apple software and hardware engineers and is actively recruiting others.

One engineer, who asked to remain anonymous, told the paper that Mark Zuckerberg had asked him about the inner workings of cellphones--wanting to know all the nitty-gritty details like what type of chips they use.

The paper also cites numerous sources as saying the company hopes to have a phone on the market by next year.

Bloggers are skeptical about Facebook’s ability to build a successful smartphone--the company has little experience in building hardware. But Facebook may not have a choice.

The social networking giant’s ad business is not keeping up with the shift to mobile devices, so the company needs to seek other revenue streams to please its brand new investors.


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