Facebooks video calling Portal devices add WhatsApp login, new features and content

Facebook is making its line of Portal-branded smart video calling devices more relevant to consumers, including those who dont even have a Facebook account. The company today says its Portal family of products will now work with just a WhatsApp account, allowing users to make video calls to friends and family, as well as access Portal features like its interactive Story Time. In addition, the Portal devices are gaining new AR features, support for Facebooks Workplace product for businesses, and a number of new streaming services, including Amazon Prime Video, FandangoNOW, SlingTV, and others, and more.
The companys original Facebook Portal devices were aimed at helping connect friends and family over video calling devices used in the home. This year, it expanded the line to include a video chat set-top box for TVs, called Portal TV, to give Facebook better traction in the living room.
But video calling alone has not proved to be enough of a selling point for Portal, whose sales are reportedly very low, according to supply chain sources. Thats led Facebook to tacking on new features and services that give consumers more of a reason to invite Facebook into their home.
That trend continues today with the notable addition of WhatsApp login. This feature allows Portal owners to sign in to the device using only their WhatsApp account. They dont even need a Facebook account at all. This opens up Portal to a potentially larger market, given WhatsApps 1.5 billion monthly users, not all of whom also have Facebook accounts.
In addition, Facebook Portal is looking to find traction in businesses, by adding support for Facebook Workplace its corporate version of Facebook thats used by 3 million paying users, from mostly enterprise-sized businesses. The company announced its plans to launch a Workplace app on Portal earlier this fall, and now its rolled out.
Facebooks video calling Portal devices add WhatsApp login, new features and content

For fun, Facebook is adding a lip-sync AR app called Mic Drop to Portal TV, which includes songs from the Backstreet Boys, Coldplay, Katy Perry, and others. Portal TV is also gaining Photo Booth, which lets you take selfies, photos, and videos to share through Messenger. Across the Portal line, the interactive, AR Story Time app is being updated to include new renditions of classics like Little Red Riding HoodandGoldilocks and the Three Bears, plus new tales fromLlama Llama,Pete the CatandOtto.
Portal users today will be able to livestream from their device directly to their Facebook Profile via Facebook Live an obvious addition for a streaming video product like this, and one that could help Portal find customers among the influencer, gamer, or vlogger crowd, perhaps.
Facebooks co-watching feature, Watch Together, is also coming to Portal Mini, Portal, and Portal+ so users can view Facebook Watch shows and programs together.
Facebooks video calling Portal devices add WhatsApp login, new features and content

Portal is also slowly edging its way into the streaming media player market with added support for a number of streaming services, including Amazon Prime Video. The company had announced Prime Video was on its way when it debuted new hardware this fall, but the service was not available at launch. Now, Prime Video is supported in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and France, along with the recently added FandangoNOW and Sling TV in the U.S. For music and podcasts, Deezer is also supported, plus Crave in Canada and France Televisions in France.
The additions make Portal products more than just fancy video chat cameras, but they dont solve Portals larger challenge: people arent comfortable bringing Facebook products into the living room. The company has repeatedly broken trust with its customer base. And while people may not be able to quit Facebook just yet, they arent rushing out to integrate it more deeply in their lives, either.
Facebooks video calling Portal devices add WhatsApp login, new features and content

The addition of Prime Now and other streaming services also places Portal into a different category of devices, where it has to compete with more advanced media players like Apple TV, Amazons Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, Chromecast, Roku, Android TV, and others. In this market, Portals small handful of streaming services just isnt enough to make it a compelling competitor.
But Facebook isnt giving up on Portal, having launched a huge marketing blitz featuring promotions in ABC TV shows as well as TV commercials starring the likes of Kim Kardashian West, Jennifer Lopez, and lately, the Muppets. According to Kantar, Facebook spent nearly $62.7 million out of $97.3 million on TV advertising in the first half of the year, Variety reported.
Facebook says its planning to bringmore content and experiences to Portal with future software updates.
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