Watch it, Apple: Facebook poaching iPad, iPhone engineers to build own phone

By , May 27, 2012

An interesting scoop over at the New York Times, citing “people close to the company” as saying that Facebook is looking to launch its own smartphone by next year, apparently tapping the collective talent of Apple’s former hardware and software engineers.

The social networking giant has already poached a bunch of engineers who worked on the iPhone and iPad projects. It’s Facebook’s third attempt at making a phone, one that’ll undoubtedly add to bad blood that’s been brewing between Facebook and Apple for quite some time now.

That said, a Facebook phone makes sense to us. The company pretty much sucks in mobile. Up until recently, they’ve been releasing and updating native applications for smartphones at a snail’s pace. If a phone is what they need to gain more credibility in mobile, so be it – though Tim Cook won’t like this.

This not-so-secret plan might also explain why a system-wide Facebook integration was a no-go in iOS 5, though code hooks are still in place. Let’s also not forget that Facebook pulled integration from Apple’s Ping social network for iTunes music.

Yup, looks like Apple can safely put Facebook on its growing list of powerful rivals, right below Google and of course Samsung…

The social networking giant had been whispered to build its own phone in the past, but it’s different this time around. Nick Bilton, writing for the New York Times’ Bits blog, explains:

Employees of Facebook and several engineers who have been sought out by recruiters there, as well as people briefed on Facebook’s plans, say the company hopes to release its own smartphone by next year. These people spoke only on condition of anonymity for fear of jeopardizing their employment or relationships with Facebook.

This is not to be confused with another project code-named “Buffy” involving Facebook and HTC which failed to produce tangible results, if you exclude last year’s Salsa and Status smartphones that sport deep Facebook integration.

This effort is something completely different.

Think of it as Zuckerberg’s latest take on mobile, albeit on a grand scale.

Apparently, Facebook has expanded the Buffy team, “creating a team of seasoned hardware engineers who have built the devices before” and tasking them with “exploring other smartphone”.

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.

Specifically, Facebook is understood to have already poached several Apple engineers.

The company has already hired more than half a dozen former Apple software and hardware engineers who worked on the iPhone, and one who worked on the iPad, the employees and those briefed on the plans said.

Furthermore, sources claim Zuck personally took it upon himself to convince these experienced folks to come work on his new pet project.

One engineer who formerly worked at Apple and worked on the iPhone said he 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 idea has legs, if you ask me.

Facebook is the most popular social network there is.

Fresh from their initial-public offering and that $1 billion Instagram acquisition, Facebook three days ago released a sleek photo sharing app called Facebook Camera, seen in a clip below.

We also heard whispers that Zuckerberg is eyeing several major video sharing sites, perhaps looking for an Instagram-like deal for video.

Another clue: the company recently announced App Center, a cross-platform app store coded entirely in HTML5 and coming soon to Android, iOS and the web.

Here’s what it might look like.

They also released a brand new Pages Manager app, updated the Messenger for iPhone app with read receipts and location support and are working on Messenger for iPad with Skype video calling.

Finally, shareholders certainly want Facebook to produce revenue streams other than personalized advertising shown to people who access the web interface on their desktop.

With mobile devices being all the rage these days and the Facebook brand getting stronger with each passing day, selling phones should do the trick, the company hopes.

Of course, Apple hasn’t been too happy with where things were heading with Facebook.

“I’ve always thought the two companies could do more together”, CEO Tim Cook said at a recent shareholder meeting.

Summing up, it does feel like Facebook is finally coming to a realization that its business model is at risk unless their platform takes over mobile space.

Plus, nearly one billion people can’t be wrong.

So, if you’re planning to sell this people on your own smartphone, that’s a powerful user base to boot from.

Well over half of them access the site on mobile devices.

According to comScore, users spend 7.5 hours on mobile Facebook versus 6.5 hours spent in Facebook’s web interface on desktop.

And if you need even more proof that Facebook is poised to launch a phone, look no further than their SEC form that lists as a potential threat “growth in use of Facebook through our mobile products, where we do not currently display ads, as a substitute for use on personal computers may negatively affect our revenue and financial results”.

With Google now officially a handset maker, Facebook cannot really afford to stand still.

Is a Facebook phone a plausible idea, what do you think?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/rolynn719 Roy Swartz

    Who cares if it doesn’t run ios then it’s just another wannabe!!! #iphone4ever

  • http://www.youtube.com/Tr1pTr0p Tr1pTr0p

    Twitter already did this. It failed miserably. Retarded corporate morons never learn.

  • Anonymous

    a facebook phone will never see the light of day epic fail on their part to want to be something like apple

  • http://twitter.com/newyorkminute10 NEWYORKMINUTE10

    If the article is long, you now directly that it’s Christian Zibreg. No offense

    • http://twitter.com/thegabrielk Gabriel K

      *know. no offense

    • http://twitter.com/thegabrielk Gabriel K

      *know. no offense

  • http://twitter.com/RickT78 Richard Thompson

    To tell you the truth…
    I think that unless they come out with something really awe inspiring, it’ll just be another feature phone gimmick that will be a total flop. I feel the next step for them would be better integration with already exsisting platforms.

  • http://twitter.com/oo7plasma Brandon

    its going to fail

  • Anonymous

    A Facebook smartphone doesn’t make sense to me. I think it’s just stupid..

  • http://twitter.com/RECON1_ [RΞCØИ1]

    Would be nice if Facebook fixed their app and Instagram before worrying about a big project like this that’ll probably be crap. Just saying…

    • Well_Said

      you 100% correct, Facebook iOS app very annoying.

  • Well_Said

    All I can say is that Facebook phone will flop if they ever release it.

  • http://twitter.com/jake1047s jacob wolin

    They would have to make something that would match the iPhone and no offense to Facebook but they will never get there. Maybe a cool handheld iPod type device for Facebook would be cool, because as we all know the mobile app sucks

  • Anonymous

    You lost me at New York Times and “people close to the company”.

  • waleed LA

    LOL …. please fix that ” via iPhone ” when we update status on facebook on iphone xD then you are good to go for that crappy Facebook Phone

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Keith-Wilson/100000592569208 Keith Wilson

    Looks like Facebook will also run into the patent war …. It’s gonna be hell tryna be original with apple associates in your circle and then these same ppl that where there will have to be fresh … It’s bad enough half the ppl who use Facebook hate the updates and didn’t they try putting a phone out through Htc? ….. Who… Who uses that phone today?

  • http://twitter.com/Dongiuj DonGiuj

    So many clairavoyants here! You should all go into palm reading or something like that. Either that or you are in direct contact with Facebook and the previous iPhone/iPad software engineers that have reportedly been hired.
    Yeah, the iPhone app is shite for sure and making other apps before they get the original sorted out makes FB look dumb. But what if, what if, the phone they make is designed to let their apps integrate better and easier. But what if you’re not a FB user? It’s like if you’re not a windows user, why would somebody buy a windows phone?

  • http://www.facebook.com/antman217 Anthony Antunez

    How about they actually work on their services and apps before relying on it for this new device. If its going to work as well as their apps then this will be shit XD

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/DXQQP3XQ5DPW5D2D6F3CT3VB54 mark

    think they are missing it….ppl like n use facebook as an online social platform, does not equate to ppl wanting a facebook specific / integrated OS platform, to do all the facebook stuffs, on yet another device or another store, which ppl already can do, on other devices by using the facebook app or laptop…..

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/DXQQP3XQ5DPW5D2D6F3CT3VB54 mark

    what they could have done is to further spend more money on revamping / promoting facebook credits which ppl nw use to buy game credits, and encourage ppl to use it for amazon style shopping, eg; if i like audio technica ( headphone brand ) headsets, i have bit of discounts if i buy it over a facebook platform / ad see on their facebook page….

  • Anonymous

    What would be the advantage for people to buy a supposed Facebook phone? The trademark? Hummm…..IMHO, I think it will be horrible a FB logo in a phone.

    Unless they create a very innovative in-house OS (which I doubt, since it’s not their know-how), it will be just another smartphone available in market, using Android or eventually, Windows Mobile.

    OS with Facebook integrated doesn’t seem to me something that would be a “killer app” to make it a serious threat to any major player in this market.

    • http://twitter.com/Dongiuj DonGiuj

      Maybe FB aren’t aiming to be a “serious threat” to the “major players”. Maybe FB wants just wants to play the game and give people the option instead of the “major players” dominating and maybe one day, dictating/monopolizing.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BTTRPE27BGU7OO6QHJ3T2DNG4U Nikolai

    The are making an FBiPhone

  • http://www.facebook.com/HudyG Yehudah Griffin

    I think you are giving Zuck to much credit. Let him start his own phone initiative… it will end up like the rest – a failure.

    Zuck has a big head, at some point after his stock has tanked some more and he’s lost a great deal of money, he’ll do something equally as stupid as his IPO – and then he will completely fail.

    It takes complete failure sometimes to get you on the right course – whatever that may be for him.

    Buy RIM, Mark. When you are homeless, we’ll be here for you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/HudyG Yehudah Griffin

    I think you are giving Zuck to much credit. Let him start his own phone initiative… it will end up like the rest – a failure.

    Zuck has a big head, at some point after his stock has tanked some more and he’s lost a great deal of money, he’ll do something equally as stupid as his IPO – and then he will completely fail.

    It takes complete failure sometimes to get you on the right course – whatever that may be for him.

    Buy RIM, Mark. When you are homeless, we’ll be here for you.