I have been using Facebook’s new portable videophone, the Portal Go, for over a week. My 4 year old son and 6 year old daughter use it to talk to my parents across the country. It went quite well. It’s an entertaining and immersive experience, although it’s honestly not much different from previous versions, including Portal TV.
But last night my 4 year old son threw an inexplicable tantrum while we were on a call. Before I could say or do anything, my daughter impatiently grabbed the Portal Go and left the living room. When my son had calmed down, I went looking for her. She was upstairs, snuggled in her bed with her grandparents on the device reading books to her.
If you are not a parent, it is very difficult to explain how much your children have lost in the last two years, even if your children, like mine, are still too young to fully understand it. There is so much that I have not been able to give you, but I can give you this. So far, Portal Go is the best way I have found to bring family members who live long distances together.
When Facebook was shut down earlier this year, I quickly learned which of the people I know have friends and family abroad and which don’t. More than 3.5 billion people around the world use Facebook and its apps, especially in countries like the Philippines, where my family is from, and where Nobel Prize winner Maria Ressa is fighting rampant misinformation on Facebook.
At this point, arguing about whether to use Facebook is like arguing about whether you should have access to the network. A company can have extremely questionable business practices and still provide critical infrastructure. In many places, Facebook it is The Internet. This is all a long way to say that I use Facebook as cautiously as possible, but I use it, and that has helped Portal Go to integrate seamlessly into my life.
It looks and feels like a slimmer, taller Amazon Echo Show, with a gray cloth-colored body that hides two 5-watt speakers and a 20-watt woofer. It has a rechargeable battery with a pesky little charging port at the bottom. The battery is possibly the most frustrating part of this device. An hour-long Portal call with interactive stories and some YouTube drained the battery about 20 percent. One day at my desk playing music, attending multiple Zoom meetings, and checking out different apps completely wore it out. It doesn’t really last that long, and worse, it takes a while to recharge (about two hours to fully charge from 40 percent).