Business News Digital

Facebook unveils its Portal, with Spotify, Pandora and iHeart integrated

By | Published on Tuesday 9 October 2018

Facebook Portal

Facebook has provided more details about its push into the increasingly crowded smart speaker market by unveiling two new devices called the Portal and Portal+. These voice-activated gadgets see the social media giant going into competition with Amazon, Apple, Google and others, all of whom seek to be the maker of the device that sits in the corner of everyone’s homes responding to shouted commands.

The Portal is most akin to Amazon’s Echo Show device in that it comes with a screen. This is important because Facebook is seeking to distinguish its device from others already on the market with super-duper video chat functionality. As part of all that, the social media firm brags about the zoom abilities of the Portal’s in-built camera and how the mic can specifically tune in to whoever is talking.

That all sounds good, doesn’t it? I mean, Facebook having cameras and microphones monitoring everything that happens in our homes, what could possibly go wrong with that? Nothing, I’m sure. Certainly, with a gentle nod to recent controversies, Facebook’s bumf around the Portal devices waffles on about privacy measures in great detail. So I think we can all be assured that everyone’s favourite big brother Markey Z has our backs. Or at least, he’ll soon be watching our backs.

With video chat at the core of the product, Facebook isn’t pushing Portal’s music and entertainment capabilities quite as much as the makers of rival devices – especially Apple – though that doesn’t mean streaming music isn’t being integrated. Spotify, Pandora and iHeartRadio tunes can all be streamed via voice commands, with Amazon’s Alexa handling any shouted instructions, musical or otherwise (despite Portal competing with Amazon’s Echo range and Amazon’s music services not being integrated at launch).

Of course, Facebook’s big licensing deals with the music industry were all the talk at the start of the year, though those relate to music included in video content uploaded to the social media firm’s platforms, rather than covering any actual Facebook streaming service. But maybe under those deals some sort of ‘soundtrack my video chat’ option could be added down the line. Probably not, though, the much needed “play some really loud metal music now, we’re about to discuss some secrets and need to be drowned out so you can’t hear us” button.

Anyway, Portals will start shipping in the US next month to anyone brave enough to take the plunge.