In a bid to focus its efforts on the Metaverse, Meta will not produce any future versions of its Portal devices for consumers. While the Portal in its various forms was far from perfect, its disappearance from the market is a bad thing.
Video calls boomed in the last couple of years, mainly due to the pandemic. Lockdowns and remote working left many of us attempting to find new ways to hold meetings or just have drinks with friends. Zoom drinks became a regular thing and I went for nearly two years without physically seeing anyone I work with.
For non-work use, the ability to move the video call away from the laptop and onto a separate device or even your home TV screen was a welcome change. It meant you could have a more relaxed conversation from your couch, rather than at a desk.
Meta offers a range of Portal devices, most of which include a screen. These vied for market against the best smart speakers such as Google's Nest Hubs and Amazon's Echo Show devices. The unique device though is its TV portal, a device that plugs straight into your TV to turn it into one massive video-sharing device.
The Portal units offer some great subject tracking to follow you around the frame, zooming and panning to focus the conversation on the subject. It's a feature similar to Apple's Center Stage that is becoming a must-have on new iPads. They also offer a range of apps, including streaming services like Netflix, Prime Video and Sling.
The requirement to connect your Facebook account or Whatsapp put some people off but it also offers five different video calling services, including Zoom and Microsoft teams. It's only those wanting to use FaceTime or Google Meet that isn't catered for here.
The problem for the smaller devices is that Amazon and Google models do more but until Apple allows FaceTime with the Apple TV, I haven't found a better solution for big-screen video calling than the Portal TV.
Without Meta Portal users have one less option when it comes to home video calling. While this is good news for Apple, Google and Amazon, less choice is never better for the consumer.