Facebook has hired a slew of former Apple hardware engineers, reports suggest, fuelling renewed speculation that it is working on a smartphone.
According to The New York Times, the social giant has enlisted the services of six one-time Cupertino cohorts and is looking for more.
The hiring drive, which is composed of iEmployees with experience of building smartphones and is part of a project codenamed Buffy, is purportedly key to Facebook’s plan to release a handset by next year, insiders cited by the NYT claim.
Rumours that a Facebook-branded phone - or FacePhone (you heard it here first) - is in the works have been rife since 2010.
However, thus far all that rumour-mongering has yielded are the likes of the HTC ChaCha and Salsa, whose Facebook functionality and connection with the search giant seemingly began and ended with their dedicated Facebook buttons.
Facebook’s move into the hardware market has reportedly been inspired in part by CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s concerns that it needs to stamp its mark on the mobile market now or risk being marginalised.
A Facebook staffer said: “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.”