Facebook makes foray into world of connected devices with Portal

Facebook portal

They're not just big screens with a video camera either, as the specs reveal some interesting features too.

Connect with Facebook and Messenger Friends: Users can call Facebook friends and connections on Messenger even if they don't have Portal. With the launch of these devices, Facebook has entered the smart speaker space to compete with the likes of Amazon, Google, and Apple.

Available in two size options, the base Portal device comes with a 10-inch 720p display and is priced $199.

Portal and Portal+ are available now for pre-order in the U.S. - from Facebook at portal.facebook.com, as well as Amazon and Best Buy - and will begin shipping in November. "When you can't be there, Portal and Portal+ let you feel there", Facebook said in its statement.

Portal and Portal+ also come with a camera cover, so users can block camera's lens at any time and still receive incoming calls and notifications, including using voice commands.

Gadgets out in a competitive market, where they will face the foremost smart column display Echo Show from Amazon, says Bloomberg. The social media giant is still dealing with a recent hack of over 50 million Facebook profiles.

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Portal is voice control enabled, but it only sends voice commands to the Facebook servers after you say "Hey Portal".

The Portal's launch was expected at F8 this year but got delayed due to the scandals engulfing Facebook.

Since Facebook uses Amazon's Alexa voice assistant to power Portal, it will be hard to catch up to Amazon's smart-home saturation. It costs 1,699 yuan (US$250), has a 8-inch screen, and also lets users make video calls and watch videos on iQiyi... which is odd, because iQiyi is owned by Baidu, but JD.com is owned by Tencent - you'd think they'd use Tencent Video instead. The company has made technology tweaks to the Portal devices to guard people's privacy.

Users can completely disable the camera and microphone with a single tap. In addition, video calls on the Portal are encrypted, which means the calls are always secure. Facebook knows it has a trust problem, and the privacy-first stance the company is taking with the product releases marks a drastic shift. And what's even more confounding is that despite being manufaced by Facebook, it's one of the few devices that doesn't let you access your Facebook feed. Facebook also says it will not listen to the contents of the calls, a problem that has hit Amazon's Alexa in the past.

Facebook, of course, knows only too well that such concerns could affect its business, not to mention its share price, as shown by the events following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which saw Zuckerberg himself attending and being grilled by United States senators in lengthy congressional hearings. The front camera is 12MP and the large HD screen allows the user to see the other person or people at the opposite end of the call.

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