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Facebook Portal now lets you play Words with Friends and zoom in on your victory dance

The smart display for video chatting gets a bunch of extra features in time for the holidays.


The Facebook Portal smart display is padding its resume as you decide which smart display to buy this holiday. The $200 Portal and $350 Portal Plus stand out for their high quality video chat features, but in addition to the privacy concerns, the Portal line doesn't offer the same overall utility as competitors like the Amazon Echo Show and Google Home Hub.

Today, the company rolls out enhanced video calling features, and the ability to watch new content when you're not chatting with out of town family, among other things.

The coolest new feature will let you pan and zoom manually with the Portal's camera. It already does that automatically to a specific person that you designate in the frame during a video call. Now, a Portal user can pinch and zoom or scroll over manually to keep the camera fixed on a person, or a specific location in the shot. 

When you're not on a call, you can now access a full web browser with the Portal. ABC News and CNN are launching news content for the device, and you can now play a bunch of ad-free games, including Battleship and Words with Friends.

Finally, Portal will now let you customize nicknames for contacts so you can call your "mom" or your "husband" with a voice command without using their full names. Facebook has also added extra AR effects to the device tailored for the season. You could previously wear a digital cat on your head or other goofy hats and glasses. The latest effects have a spa theme, a tropical theme and a North Pole theme. The company also added new books to the Portal's "Story Time" feature and added iHeartRadio to its in-call music sharing feature letting you share synced music with the person on the other end of your call.

Facebook is smart to expand on its main feature with the ability to manually control the focus of video calls. Those other features are fine, too, if not game changing. If you want a smart display to keep up with distant relatives, the Portal might now be even more appealing. 

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