Facebook May be Developing a Smartphone for Release Next Year

According to a report in the New York Times, employees of Facebook and several engineers who have been sought out by recruiters, say the company hopes to release its own smartphone by next year. These people spoke only on the condition of anonymity for fear of jeopardising their employment or relationships with Facebook.

One engineer who formerly worked at Apple and worked on the iPhone said he had met with Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, who then peppered him with questions about the inner workings of smartphones.

It did not sound like idle intellectual curiosity, the engineer said; Mr. Zuckerberg asked about intricate details, including the types of chips used, he said. Another former Apple hardware engineer was recruited by a Facebook executive and was told about the company’s hardware explorations.

The social network has already had three attempts at creating a smartphone, and for Facebook, the motivation is clear; as a newly public company, it must find new sources of revenue, and it fears being left behind in mobile, one of the most promising areas for growth.

“Mark is worried that if he doesn’t create a mobile phone in the near future that Facebook will simply become an app on other mobile platforms,” a Facebook employee said.

Facebook is going to great lengths to keep the phone project a secret, specifically not posting job listings on the company’s job Web site, but instead going door-to-door to find the right talent for the project.

The news comes as search engine giant Google completed the acquisition of Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion earlier this week. This move could help Facebook counter that with its own foray into the smartphone hardware business.