The New York Times reports that Facebook has recently hired more than a half dozen Ex-Apple software and hardware engineers who worked on the iPhone, and on the iPad, to build the Facebook SmartPhone.

Instead of posting job listings for the Facebook phone on Internet, Mark Zuckerberg and his team are hiring engineers for their smartphone by hand, according to the report. Zuckerberg is asking specific questions from Ex-Apple engineers about the iPhone, including the types and number of chips used in iPhone and iPad.

The Facebook mobile phone project has been rebooted several times because the company recently explored that it need to bring in people with phone-making experience, according to the report.

One Facebook employee told The New York Times that Facebook initially thought it could figure out hardware development on its own.

Here’s the money quote from the story;

“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,” one Facebook employee said.

Facebook has silently assembled all the vital bits of a smartphone. Last week, it launched its own messenger service and new camera app that uploads pics directly to Facebook quickly. It is also reported that Facebook is in talks with mobile web browser developer Opera for its smartphone.

Facebook is also planning to launch its own app store like the one Apple has. The Facebook Platform is already one of the most engaging platforms available, and Facebook could very easily  integrate (or migrate) those currently working developers into the mobile applications tore.