Facebook in ‘third attempt’ to build own smartphone

Facebook phone rumors are swirling again, with reports that the company’s been hiring smartphone engineers.

According to the New York Times, it’s taken on several people who previously worked on the iPhone or iPad. It quoted a company employee as saying that founder Mark Zuckerberg was worried that, unless the company created a phone of its own, “Facebook will simply become an app on other mobile platforms”.

Rumors that the company was planning a move into creating its own hardware have been circulating for well over a year, with a release date suggested for some time late this year or early next.

According to the NYT, the current effort actually marks Facebook’s third attempt at building a smartphone. Its first attempt was abandoned because the company lacked the necessary hardware expertise.

Last year, it was reported to be working on a phone with HTC, codenamed Buffy, and the NYT says this new work is an extension of that project.

The advantages of moving more into the mobile area are greater than ever, with Facebook concerned that the small screen of most phones makes them less than ideal for advertising.

Still, building its own phone won’t be easy – and the company may still decide that it makes more sense to use some of the cash from its IPO to buy a phone manufacturer instead: struggling Blackberry maker Research in Motion could be one possibility, or even HTC itself.