Facebook announces Portal and Portal

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The inclusion of Amazon's software is an odd choice given that this appears to be a direct competitor to the Amazon Alexa line of devices.

Created to rival the Amazon Echo Show, the Portal will retail for $199 (around £150 / AU$280), whereas the larger model, the Portal+, will cost $349 (£270 / AU$495), with Facebook's current deal of $100 off any two devices meaning you can get both for $298 if you're a United States customer.

Facebook's advantage over other video-chat services: Chances are, nearly everyone you might want to call already has an account. However, preorders will be limited to U.S. buyers initially - Amazon and Best Buy will also stock them.

That said, Facebook says Portal does not collect any information about people's home, listening only for voice commands.

That's definitely a cool trick up the sleeve of the Portal+, which also comes with a pair of tweeters, single 4-inch bass, and 20w audio output. It has a 12-megapixel front-facing camera with 140-degree field of view.

The Facebook Portal is an Alexa-powered smart display with a focus on video chat functions. Both come in white or black. Earlier this year, the company had to acknowledge that as many as 87 million people may have had their data accessed by Cambridge Analytica, a data mining firm that worked for the Trump campaign and aimed to use the data to influence elections. "In addition, video calls on Portal are encrypted, so your calls are always secure", the company said in the blog post announcing the device.

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.

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To make a call, users will simply say "Hey Portal, call." followed by the name of the person you want to contact.

With a 10-inch 1280 x 800 display, the Portal is part of Facebook's mission to improve video calling by making it "completely hands and distraction free". Facebook also says it won't store any of the video sent through the camera on the computers in its data centers. You'll also be able to delete your Portal or Portal+ device's voice history using your Facebook Activity log. Portal itself will be fitted out to use augmented reality effects that have become popular on Facebook Messenger.

It remains to be seen if Portal can be a commercial success, because Facebook has had trouble with hardware for years. More recently, Facebook revealed that hackers managed to pierce its security to break into 50 million accounts. The cameras and the microphones in these two devices can be disabled with a switch.

Compared to Amazon Echo Show, the Portal devices seem pretty limited in nature with a strong emphasis being laid on video calling.

First going on sale in the USA in November, Portal will come with a 10in display for video calls, or a 15in display on the Portal+.

Facebook declined to elaborate further on whether Watch or other Facebook apps would run ads in the future. Portal's camera doesn't use facial recognition and doesn't identify who you are.

The smaller Portal is priced at $$199 (or around $0 AUD) while the larger Portal+ is priced at $$349 (or around $0 AUD). Users can play music from Spotify, iHeartRadio, and Pandora and watch videos through Facebook Watch, Food Network, and Newsy.

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