Pretty soon, you'll be able to use Facebook Portal for more than just calling your grandparents. That's because Facebook is adding the ability to make video calls using BlueJeans, GoToMeeting, WebEx, and Zoom, turning its consumer-focused smart display into something you can use for work or school.
Rolling out in September (an official release date hasn't been given), you'll be able to download apps for the aforementioned video conferencing services to the Portal, Portal Plus, and Portal Mini. (The feature is not yet available for the Portal TV, but Facebook hopes to enable that in the near future). The Portal's camera — which can track you as you move around the room — will work the same as if you were making a call using Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp.
In addition, Facebook is making some improvements to its business-focused conferencing service, Workplace. Users will be able to log in via a dedicated Workplace account, rather than having to use a Facebook or WhatsApp login.
You'll be able to add backgrounds to your Workplace calls, so coworkers won't be treated to the site of your messy bedroom.
While the Portal won't have all features of the various videoconferencing apps — there's no way to add a background to Zoom calls, for instance — the ability to use multiple video chat apps on the Portal gives it an advantage over other smart displays.
By comparison, the Google Nest Hub Max has camera tracking similar to the Portal, but only allows you to make video calls with Google Meet or Google Duo. On Amazon's side, the Echo Show, Echo Show 8, and Echo Show 5 has Skype and Alexa calling.
Update (8/19): Zoom calls are also coming to Amazon Echo Show devices and the Google Nest Hub Max later this year, too.
Considering how the best webcams are in short supply these days, smart displays are starting to sound like a viable option for those putting together their home office for work or for school. And, now that Zoom will work across various smart displays, it makes it even more compelling as one of the best video chat apps.
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Michael A. Prospero is the U.S. Editor-in-Chief for Tom’s Guide. He oversees all evergreen content and oversees the Homes, Smart Home, and Fitness/Wearables categories for the site. In his spare time, he also tests out the latest drones, electric scooters, and smart home gadgets, such as video doorbells. Before his tenure at Tom's Guide, he was the Reviews Editor for Laptop Magazine, a reporter at Fast Company, the Times of Trenton, and, many eons back, an intern at George magazine. He received his undergraduate degree from Boston College, where he worked on the campus newspaper The Heights, and then attended the Columbia University school of Journalism. When he’s not testing out the latest running watch, electric scooter, or skiing or training for a marathon, he’s probably using the latest sous vide machine, smoker, or pizza oven, to the delight — or chagrin — of his family.