Facebook expands its smart home reach with a refresh that includes two new devices. Facebook introduced two new Portal devices in addition to a refresh of its inch Portal smart screen this week. They join the first-edition Portal Plus , which has not been updated. The devices are designed primarily with video calling in mind and are controlled using Facebook's own "Hey, Portal" voice service, as well as via built-in Alexa functionality. Conversations over privacy have eclipsed sales of Portal devices over the last year, making clear the social networking giant is battling its own reputation for market share. Not to mention, stiff competition from the likes of Apple , Google and Amazon have further thwarted Facebook's attempt to stake a serious claim in the fast-growing smart home space. Even if you're not considering buying hardware from a company still at the heart of continuing privacy concerns , here's what you need to know about Facebook's new line of Portal smart devices, including what it says about how Facebook plans to manage your data going forward. Since its inception last year, Facebook Portal mostly lets you video chat with your Facebook friends. The unit sits on a desk or table or near your TV, and the camera follows as you walk around, so you can talk to someone completely hands-free while doing other things. The camera can automatically pan and zoom to focus on you, even in a room full of people.
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What's the difference between a Portal, Portal Mini, Portal Plus and Portal TV?
The Facebook Portal smart display is great at making video calls to Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp contacts, and while its setup process is easy, it is somewhat lengthy. Insert the power cord into the back of the Portal, and plug it into an outlet. After the Portal connects to your network, it will automatically download and install the latest update. During this time, you can take a virtual tour of the device. After the Portal has finished downloading the update, it will ask you to restart it. Once the Portal has restarted, press continue to agree to the terms of service. Give your Portal a name. You can select from the menu, or create your own name. Connect your Facebook account.
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With a new update today, the Facebook Portal can be used exclusively with a WhatsApp log-in and calls — no Facebook account needed. Previously, the Portal could call people on WhatsApp, but callers still needed to create and log in with an active Facebook account. The original countertop Portal and the new Portal TV are genuinely great video-chatting devices, with clear pictures, easy-to-use interfaces, fun face filters, and a smart camera that makes it seamless to have several people onscreen even little ones who move around a lot. Of course, I also realize that nobody wants one in their home, because, you know…what dummy would allow an always-on Facebook video camera into their home? Now you can use WhatsApp to log in and make calls to other WhatsApp users. WhatsApp calls are end-to-end encrypted, which is more secure than just the Portal via Messenger calls. The new features will roll out starting today. Notopoulos writes about tech and internet culture and is cohost of the Internet Explorer podcast. Contact Katie Notopoulos at katie buzzfeed.
You can have up to 4 accounts linked to your Portal TV. The accounts you add must be Facebook friends with an account already connected to your Portal TV. Your Portal contacts are the Facebook friends, Messenger connections and WhatsApp contacts of all accounts linked to your Portal. With Portal, you can make and receive calls to and from your Facebook friends, Messenger connections and WhatsApp contacts.