What is Facebook Portal?

Connecting with your family, friends, and beyond


SEPTEMBER 15, 2021

facebook-portal desktop

Remember the scene in “Back to the Future Part II” where Marty McFly sneaks into his future home and witnesses himself and his family video chatting on multiple screens throughout the house? While this has become possible in the present, Facebook has taken it one step further with Facebook Portal.

What is Facebook Portal?

At its core, Facebook Portal is a video communication tool featuring the company's Smart Camera, which responds to movement, so you can talk with a friend or loved one while moving around a room. Portal also features Smart Sound that enhances the voice of the person talking while minimizing background noise. For example, if you’re fixing dinner, need your hands free, and need to grab something out of the fridge across the room, no problem.

Facebook Portal devices detect your movement, and the camera follows you wherever you go while controlling the volume and nixing background distractions, so everyone can be heard loud and clear. (If that’s a little concerning for times when you’re not using Portal, don’t worry. All device cameras and microphones can be disengaged when you’re not on a call.)

Facebook Portal even offers something for the kids. The “Story Time” feature incorporates augmented reality, allowing grandparents or other family members to read children their favorite stories virtually, complete with music and animation. This is an easy way to stay connected to the kiddos even if work pulls you away from home overnight. (There’s even a Millennium Falcon background for “Star Wars” fans!)

Facebook Portal also allows you to:

  • Make phone calls with Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

  • Use the Portal mobile app to share and cast photos, and for other virtual remote capabilities.

  • Listen to your favorite tunes with the Facebook Portal Smart Speaker. Portal, Portal Mini, and Portal+ devices feature these front-porting stereo speakers and rear woofer for a rich, hi-fi sound.

  • Broadcast from Portal with Facebook Live.

  • Display Facebook and Instagram photos when you’re not on a call.

  • Schedule reminders for birthdays, anniversaries, and other special events.

  • Connect with your accounts on Netflix, Facebook Live, Facebook Watch, Instagram, Spotify, Pandora, iHeart Radio, Paramount+, Prime Video, Showtime, Fandango Now, Sling Television, Zoom, Food Network, and SideChef. (Individual app fees still apply.)

How can I use Portal with smart home devices?

Facebook Portal’s Alexa compatibility enables you to play your favorite music, catch up on current news, check the weather, monitor stocks, and generally keep tabs on everything that may affect your world. (Portal also helps with home office efficiency, but we’ll get to that a little later.)

Users can download apps, harness voice commands, and basically use Facebook Portal the same way as any Echo device does. However, Portal isn’t compatible with all Alexa options. Calling, announcements, messaging, and photos aren’t available, for instance. Neither is drop-in — a feature that lets you connect to supported Alexa-enabled devices and use them as an intercom.

How can Portal enhance home security?

In light of its other features, you may wonder, “Can I use Facebook Portal as a security camera?” Yes, you can. In addition to using a variety of Alexa security commands, including those to operate smart door locks, you can also connect Brinks Home™ products to Portal through Alarm.com. The Alarm.com app not only operates lights and locks, but also shows all home security camera footage on your phone. This is helpful to watch for potential burglars or home emergencies, and it even lets you monitor your dog or cat as they roam throughout your home while you’re away.

The Alarm.com app also allows you to:

  • Arm or disarm your system.

  • Activate different system options for staying at home or being away.

  • View security camera footage at the front door, inside entrances, and throughout the home.

  • Control your thermostat remotely, and manage scheduled thermostat settings.

  • Open and close your garage door.

  • Lock or unlock your doors.

  • Turn interior and exterior lights on and off.

  • Capture still images on security cameras.

Can Portal help me work from home?

Facebook Portal includes options to help streamline your home office with apps including Workplace, BlueJeans, GoToMeeting, Webex, and Zoom, which also adopt Portal’s Smart Camera and Smart Sound mechanisms. Colleagues who don’t have Portal can join any call with their smartphone, computer, or tablet, and you can hold meetings for up to 50 participants. Keep in mind that third-party app fees may apply, and BlueJeans and Webex are currently not available on Portal TV.

Another handy feature is Portal’s background blur. Home office a mess? No problem. Simply blur out your video’s background to focus completely on you. Using Alexa, you can also create to-do lists, track packages, or check who is at the door before you answer. (Now you won’t get caught in conversation with a talkative neighbor and lose valuable work time.)

Learn more about our Brinks Home™ mobile app and how it can help keep you and your family secure.

Jason Stevens is a senior writer for Brinks Home. He is a "tech guy" who enjoys sharing home security and automation tips with others.

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