10 things you can do with Facebook Portal

Go beyond just making calls with these tips.

Alina Bradford CNET Contributor
Alina Bradford has been writing how-tos, tech articles and more for almost two decades. She currently writes for CNET's Smart Home Section, MTVNews' tech section and for Live Science's reference section. Follow her on Twitter.
Alina Bradford
3 min read
James Martin/CNET

Facebook's Portal  smart screen does more than just make calls. You can use it to watch videos, play games and find out the local weather, or help you tell children's stories. 

Here are tips that will take you beyond making simple phone calls and some tips to make using a Portal easier, too.

Watch videos

If you swipe left from the home screen you'll see a selection of apps. One of them is called Watch. The name really doesn't clue you in to everything it does. Using it, you can watch featured Facebook videos, watch livestream videos from gamers an view the videos you saved from your Facebook timeline. All you do is swipe and tap on what you want to do. 

Get apps

You probably know that you can play iHeart Radio, Spotify and Pandora playlists on Portal by swiping left, but don't stop there. You can also get add-ons by tapping on the Portal App icon

Right now the selection of apps isn't very big, but Facebook tells me that the selection will be increasing soon.

Watch this: 5 apps for group video calls

Control where people call you

You can make it so that people can only call the Portal when you're at home with the Home and Away function. From the home screen, swipe left, and tap on Settings > Incoming Call Settings > Only When You're Home. Then, go to your phone and confirm that you want to use the Home and Away feature when the alert pops up. 

This will make calls automatically go only to your phone when you're not at home.

Tell stories

If you like to have video calls with the little kids in your life, the Story Time feature will be your new favorite thing. It basically lets you tell a story using story filters and onscreen prompts. Story choices include The Three Little Pigs, The Itsy-Bitsy Spider and Mary Had a Little Lamb. 

To get started, tap the Story Time icon on the bottom of your screen. Some story options will pop up. Tap on the story you want. 

The person on the other side of the conversation will see a storybook scene pop up around your head and words to the story will show up on your side so you can read the story during the video call. 


Story Time feature

Alina Bradford/CNET

Add your local weather to the Superframe

You can see the current weather at a glance with the Weather Superframe setting. Tap on Settings > Superframe and toggle on the Weather option.

Turn on notifications for your favorites

You can set up an alert for when one of your favorites becomes active on Messenger or Facebook. Tap the favorited person's icon on the home screen and tap on the "i" icon in the upper right corner of the pop-up. Then, toggle on the Activity Notification option.

When the person becomes active, your Portal will make a clicking noise to let you know.

Zoom in

If you have trouble seeing, and you refuse to wear your readers (like me), or you just need a little extra help even with your glasses, there's a fix for that. Go to Settings > Accessibility and toggle on Triple-tap for Magnification

Now, when you can't quite see something, just tap on it three times. That area of the screen will enlarge. To get the screen back to normal size, tap it three times again.

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Add other accounts

No doubt your other family members or friends will want to use your Portal. No problem. You can add up to four accounts.

To add accounts, go to Settings > Accounts > Add an Account. Then, just follow the onscreen directions. Once the accounts are set up, your friends will be able to access their contacts and make calls on your Portal.

Put yourself (or someone else) in the spotlight

Portal's Spotlight feature basically keeps the camera on a specific person, even in a crowded room. Turn on Spotlight by double-tapping on the featured person's face on the screen while you're in a call. A green square will pop up and you'll see a notification in the bottom right corner of the screen that says Spotlight On

When you're done featuring the person, tap on the bottom-right corner of the screen and choose Spotlight Off

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