Facebook is making serious moves to enter the smartphone business in 2013, according to a report from the New York Times' technology blog, Bits. The story notes that this will be the third attempt at phone manufacturing from the social networking giant—after a scrubbed first attempt in 2010 and a second, a partnership between Facebook and HTC, apparently still in the works. Via NYT:

“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 the condition of anonymity for fear of jeopardizing their employment or relationships with Facebook.

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.

When asked Friday, Facebook did not deny or confirm that a project to build a smartphone existed, but pointed to a previous statement it gave to AllThingsD last year that said in part, 'We’re working across the entire mobile industry; with operators, hardware manufacturers, OS providers, and application developers.'”

Having just gone public, Facebook is seeking alternative revenue sources due to the limited ad revenue from their mobile platforms. ComScore statistics claim more users access Facebook via mobile devices than desktop and laptop computers. Via Los Angeles Times:

“Facebook pocketed a cool $3.1 billion last year from ads viewed from laptop and desktop computer screens, but it hasn't figured out a way to make big money on the 500 million people — more than half its users — who log in with smartphones and tablets.

An iPad application for Facebook wasn't released until last fall. And Facebook didn't offer advertising for mobile devices until two months ago, when it began showing mobile users “sponsored stories” ads in their news feeds.

The absence of a strong mobile advertising platform could prove to be the social network's Achilles' heel, some believe, despite the investor frenzy that is likely to accompany its initial public stock offering that's expected Friday.

Overall, people are spending more time on Facebook on their mobile devices than they are while using desktop computers, according to research firm ComScore Inc. The study revealed that the average time people spent on Facebook on smartphones jumped to seven hours and 21 minutes in March compared with six hours and 31 minutes on personal computers.”

What do you think? Would you use a Facebook-branded smartphone in lieu of say, an iPhone or Android device? Let us know in the comments.