Video calling device that includes WhatsApp, Messenger, and Alexa built-in goes on sale in the UK, Europe
Facebook has refreshed its Portal portfolio of video-calling devices, and has included a model that adds smart video calling to the biggest screen in most people’s houses, the television.
Facebook had revealed the Portal device to the world back in October 2018, and it said at the time that the device was designed with privacy in mind, pointing features such as a plastic clip that slides over the camera and a physical off button.
It had launched the device ten months ago in the United states, but now the devices will soon be available for purchase in the UK and other European countries.
Facebook is offering four devices. The first is Portal TV and it costs £149.
Portal TV is a box that sits on top of your TV with a camera, microphones and a speaker, connecting to the screen via an HDMI cable.
It essentially turns a TV into a giant smart display with video chat functions. It can also be used to play videos from Facebook Watch while on a video call, so people can watch the same thing simultaneously.
The main two traditional smart displays are the Portal Mini, which costs £129 and features a 8in 720p display. The Portal cost $169 and has a 10in 720p display, while the Portal+ has a 15.6 inch display and costs $269.
So what do these devices offer?
Well these devices can display photos and calendar events, play videos and offer streaming services such as Spotify and Amazon Prime Video. The Portal’s also listen out for two wake words depending on settings.
“Hey Portal” triggers Facebook’s voice assistant in US English only, and “Alexa” triggers Amazon’s voice assistant, which connects directly to Amazon’s servers and offers the type of services that its Echo smart speakers typical offer.
Facebook’s Portal range also come with 2.1 sound, with stereo speakers ported into the sides of the frame. A bass speaker is located in the back.
Video calls can be made with either Messenger or WhatsApp. Video calls over Messenger are encrypted to the server, but WhatsApp is encrypted end-to-end.
Calls made through Portal can be made to other Portal devices, or to Messenger running on a smartphone, tablet or the web, or to WhatsApp on a smartphone.
The big test for Facebook will be whether consumers are prepared to accept its assurances of privacy, in the wake of past scandals at the social networking giant.
All of the devices will be available from 15 October, but the Portal TV will go on sale on 5 November.