Google completed its acquisition of Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion last week, paving the way, as many believe, for its own future smartphone. But it seems that the search engine giant is not the only software company at present trying to get into the hardware arena. If rumors are to be believed, Facebook too wants its own smartphone.

According to a report by The New York Times, Facebook employees, engineers and other people familiar with Facebook's plans told that the company hopes to release its own smartphone as early as next year and, going ahead with its plan, 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 report quoted one of its sources saying that hiring former Apple engineers would be Facebook's third attempt to create a smartphone. In 2010, reports surfaced about the social networking giant working on a smartphone. However, the project was reportedly stopped as the company found the difficulties involved too tough to overcome.

There was another report by AllThingsD last year, which said that Facebook and HTC had joined hands to build a smartphone that has the social network integrated at the core of its being. The phone was code-named Buffy and, according to The New York Times report, the project is still in the works.

According to one Facebook employee, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity, the phone project got rebooted multiple times as Facebook originally believed that it could figure out hardware on its own. Since that didn't happen, Facebook realized that it needed people with experience in phone manufacturing, and that eventually led the company to hire hardware engineers to work with a phone manufacturer and design the shape, style and inner workings of a Facebook phone.

On top of all these, one Facebook employee even said that the company's CEO Mark Zuckerberg is worried about the whole issue and wants Facebook's own phone in the near future.

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, said the Facebook employee.

But will a company like Facebook, which is very much into software, manage to build hardware of its own? The Verge believes, if fully integrated with a mobile platform, Facebook's suite of apps and services, including Instagram and the new Facebook Camera app, could be interesting to experience.

In addition, Facebook also reportedly wants to buy Opera to create its own browser, which could fit nicely together with an effort to create a new mobile platform, The Verge reported.

Nothing is certain at this point of time, but speculations about a Facebook phone are indeed gaining momentum, with the company neither denying or confirming the existence of such a project.

We're working across the entire mobile industry; with operators, hardware manufacturers, OS providers, and application developers, Facebook told The New York Times when asked for comments.