Facebook slashes price, size of Portal video call gadget

Facebook is slashing the price and the size of the Portal, its screen and camera-equipped gadget for making video calls with friends and family as it attempts to get the device into more homes.

A smaller version will now cost US$129 (NZ$203) and will come with an 8-inch display. A larger version with a 10-inch display will cost US$179.

A new screenless Portal device that attaches to a television set will be US$149.

Last year's models were bigger and cost more - US$199 for a 10.1 inch display and US$349 for at 15.6 inch screen.

Facebook isn't saying how many Portals it's sold since it launched the first models last autumn. It remains unclear how many people want a Facebook-branded smart camera in their homes, given the company's history of privacy problems .

Facebook executives unveiled the new gadget at a small event in San Francisco this week. In addition to losing a few inches, Portal has been redesigned to look less like a space-age gadget and more like a picture frame.

Facebook isn't saying how many Portals it has sold.
Facebook isn't saying how many Portals it has sold.

The product is also launching in more countries and will work with WhatsApp to make video calls, in addition to Facebook's Messenger app. And will now stream Amazon Prime videos.

Facebook has tried to assuage privacy concerns with the Portal. The service will not show ads, but "we are using Facebook's infrastructure, so some data may inform ads on Facebook," said Andrew "Boz" Bosworth, vice president of virtual reality and augmented reality. "But that's not the point of it, it's not something that is going to be material to Facebook."

For instance, if someone makes a lot of video calls on Portal, they might see ads for video calling devices elsewhere. But Facebook says it doesn't use the content of the calls for ad targeting, though Bosworth declined to commit to never doing so in the future.

The devices will ship to New Zealand from November 5.