When I was little, I communicated with my grandparents on the other side of the globe through awkward, truncated phone calls, letters sprinkled with foreign languages, and care packages full of dried mangos and underwear. FaceTime has been an immeasurable improvement, but it's not perfect. I can convince my 2-year-old and 4-year-old children to sit in front of an iPad Mini for only a few minutes at a time. They stare blankly at my parents, who sit on a couch thousands of miles away and stare right back at them. It's like taking telephone calls while trapped in a glass case of emotion. The Facebook Portal changed that. My 4-year-old puts a kitty face on herself, and my son shows my parents his robot.
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.
- Facebook's video calling device explored
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. You can add or remove photos by tapping the toggle next to any albums or photo collections listed in the display settings menu.
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.