Facebook Unveils Portal and Portal

See Facebook's first hardware product

Facebook Unveils Portal and Portal

Facebook allows you to disable the camera and microphone, which supposedly physically disconnects them. You will also use your existing Facebook or Facebook Messenger account to sign in. It's worth noting that you can't browse Facebook, the social network, on the Portal.

To make a call, users will simply say "Hey Portal, call." followed by the name of the person you want to contact. There's also a new "Story Time" AR feature for video calls with kids.

The company has been at the centre of several data privacy incidents this year, and also revealed details about the Portal's privacy settings in a bid to reassure potential customers. Google's smart displays make video calls using the company's Duo chat app. The Facebook Portal is an Alexa-powered smart display which has a focus on video chats. I couldn't shake the feeling that Facebook eventually wanted to run its facial-recognition tech on my chats, or peer into my living room to see what products I buy in order to target future ads.

The device has an emphasis on video conferencing and comes in two versions - the Portal and Portal+. If you're looking for a larger screen, the Portal+ is 15 inches wide, with both devices acting as a digital photo frame, displaying images from your Facebook feed when they are not being used to make calls.

The Portal and Portal+ will take on Amazon's Echo Show and Google's upcoming Home Hub smart display.

The Portal also has a button on the top that cuts off its microphone and camera. The former features a 10.1-inch screen with WXGA resolution and 10W speakers, while the latter features a 15.6-inch Full HD display with 20W speakers and a 4-inch bass woofer. By shipping the Portal with Alexa, Facebook might be proactively avoiding a controversy about data collection. It is controlled using voice commands, although Facebook has eschewed the personal approach of competitors such as Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa in favour of a more disembodied presence: users initiate instructions with: "Hey Portal". You can't browse Facebook or Instagram on it, or even visit the web (you also can't watch video content on it via Youtube).

Created to rival the Amazon Echo Show, the Portal will retail for $199 (around £150 / AU$280), whereas the larger model, the Portal+, will cost $349 (£270 / AU$495), with Facebook's current deal of $100 off any two devices meaning you can get both for $298 if you're a U.S. customer.

Facebook does not record or listen to calls, and your chats are encrypted (Facebook doesn't say whether or not this is end-to-end encryption).

Facebook Portal and Portal+ will be available in November for $199 and $349, respectively. This means two vanilla Portal devices will cost you $298. Two different models were announced today, the Portal and the larger Portal+.

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