At launch, the original Facebook Portal was a smart display built that only really appealed to those that made video calls over the social network. Over time, the product evolved into a wider video conferencing platform, with support for Zoom, BlueJeans, GoToMeeting, Webex and Workplace. Today, Facebook is building on that with some new software features and service support in addition to new hardware, Portal+ and Portal Go smart displays.
Facebook is increasingly seeing its Portal range as designed for business, giving dedicated devices for joining video calls without having to faff around with microphone and webcam settings.
Microsoft Teams support
In addition to the platforms that it currently supports, Facebook has announced that Portal devices will get Microsoft Teams support from this December. That just leaves Google Hangouts as the one platform that’s not supported.
To make it easier to use calls, Facebook has introduced a new calendar app that synchronises with Google or Outlook calendars, popping up reminders and links for video appointments, so that you can just tap a link and join in a call.
For businesses that want to provide Portal devices to their workforce, there’s a new Portal Device Manager, which lets companies remotely deploy devices, see their status and even reboot or factory reset them.
WhatsApp multi-device support, music and video
It’s not all about work, as there are a load of new features for consumers, too. WhatsApp multi-device is coming soon, which will let you use your phone and up to four other devices at the same time. Windows and Mac users may have spotted that this option is available now in beta, replacing the old limitation that you could only use one phone and a second device at the same time.
In the US, Watch Together, which lets you watch shows simultaneously with your friends has been expanded. Rather than only support Portal-to-Portal calls, the new service works across platforms, so friends can be using a tablet or computer. This feature will roll out internationally later this year, although given the sparse content available on Facebook I can’t see it being that popular.
Spotify, Pandora and iHeartRadio support are built-in, letting you listen to music on your Portal. And, there’s still the option to use Amazon Alexa, turning the Portal into an Echo Show rival.
Household Mode is a new feature designed to make it easier to share a Portal device with your family. According to Facebook, Household Mode will let you share a subset of apps and contacts with your entire family, making it easier to share a device.
Alongside the new software features come two new products. The first is the Portal Go, which has a 10-inch screen. This wedge-shaped device sits on a charger that tops up the internal battery. When you want to make a call in a different room (or use it as a portable speaker), you can just pick up the speaker and carry it around.
Portal Go has a 12MP camera with an ultra-wide field of view, so you can have family or group chats using it. It will cost $199 (UK pricing to come).
There’s also a new Portal+, replacing the original product. This new device has a 14-inch screen, which Facebook says is big enough to fit 25 people on-screen in gallery mode on a Zoom call.
Rather than the rotating screen of the previous model, this new display tilts up and down, so you get the right angle. Again, there’s a 12MP wide-angle camera on the front of the display. This model will cost $349.
Both devices are available for pre-order at portal.facebook.com and will ship on October 19 2021.