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(Pocket-lint) - Facebook has hired a number of former Apple employees to work on a new Facebook phone codenamed “Buffy”.

The New York Times says “more than half a dozen former Apple software and hardware engineers who worked on the iPhone, and one who worked on the iPad”, have been hired by Mark Zuckerberg to work on the project. 

According to one Facebook employee, Zuckerberg is concerned that by not producing a Facebook smartphone the social network will “simply become an app on other mobile platforms”. The company was previously said to be working closely with HTC over project "Buffy" and though that collaboration may still happen, it now appears Facebook could also be looking at producing hardware itself.

Would a Facebook phone really be anything new? Both INQ and HTC have issued their own “Facebook” phones in the past in the shape of the INQ1 and HTC ChaCha and HTC Salsa respectively.

What's more, with Facebook coming preinstalled as an app on nearly every smartphone it’s unclear as to what new attributes an actual Facebook phone would bring to the mix.

Perhaps a new Facebook phone ties in with the news that the company is looking to buy Opera Software, which could in turn create a new mobile platform exclusive to the handset.

Whatever the speculation as to what a Facebook phone may or may not mean, Zuckerberg is said to be aiming to bring project “Buffy” to fruition by 2013.

What do you think a Facebook smartphone will consist of? Let us know your thoughts.

Writing by Danny Brogan.