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Facebook’s Portal lets you video chat handsfree with your Facebook friends. The company recently released new devices in the lineup with even more features. If you don’t want an 8-inch or 10-inch countertop display, you can mount a smaller version without a built-in display on top of your TV. A new feature that’s sure to be popular is that you can co-watch videos with another user over Amazon Prime.
The countertop Portal device and the new Portal TV reportedly have clear pictures and easy-to-use interfaces. To watch a movie with a friend, you initiate a video call and launch the Amazon Prime Video. The Portal TV syncs up the video for both parties and makes sure everybody can talk along while watching. The technology is similar to Togethr TV or the Chrome plug-in Netflix Party.
When used for video calling, Portal has fun face filters and a smart camera that seamlessly tracks where you are and moves to keep you in frame. When you're not on a call, Portal displays birthday reminders, weather updates, and photos from your Facebook account. The devices now have fully integrated Alexa functionality so you can control smart home devices like your thermostat or doorbell, or play music from your favorite streaming service.
A special Story mode lets parents or grandparents read popular storybook titles like the Llama Llama kids’ series and Little Red Riding Hood to kids. The enhanced stories have on-screen graphics, augmented reality effects, and music.
Although Facebook is the most popular social media platform in the world, many consumers hesitate to turn over more data to the company. After all, the company has a poor track record with data privacy. In response, Facebook claims the microphone and camera are turned off by default.
Further, the company no longer requires an active Facebook account for video calling. WhatsApp users (owned by Facebook) can now log in and use the device with their credentials. Even though the WhatsApp platform allows users to place encrypted calls, the device will still gather some basic user data like how often you use it and for what purpose.
The Portal devices are currently only available in the US, Canada, UK, Spain, Italy, France, Australia, and New Zealand.
Megan Southard is a writer, mom, technology enthusiast, and movie junkie. She dreads the day her kids have to explain gadgets to her and is old enough to say, "I was the remote for our TV growing up."
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