Stop us if you have heard this one before: Facebook is building its own smartphone, claim “employees of Facebook and several engineers who have been sought out by recruiters there, as well as people briefed on Facebook’s plans,” according to the New York Times.

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.

This is the third effort for Facebook, according to the report, with a HTC joint venture codenamed “Buffy” still in progress. HTC released a set of Android phones last year named “Salsa” and “Status” with deep Facebook integration on the way to hugely disappointing sales and earnings.

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.

Apple was mere betas away from releasing iOS 4 with Facebook integration—the way Twitter is currently built into iOS. Something at the last minute, perhaps related to Facebook pulling support for Ping, made Apple pull the plug. Apple then integrated with Twitter a year later.

Facebook recently announced a cross-platform web App Center for mobile device application distribution that is aimed at building a smartphone platform, an updated Messenger app with read receipts, a Pages Manager, as well as a specialized photo application that replicated features of Instagram (which it purchased just weeks before).

Facebook is approaching 1 billion users globally with more than half of them being mobile. Apple CEO Tim Cook expressed appreciation for Facebook and its founder Mark Zuckerberg.

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