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(Credit: Facebook)

Facebook has decided to heed the calls of critics by adding a bevy of games, apps and a fresh new web browser to Portal, the smart display it unveiled this year. After a rough initial rollout of the video-chat device, Facebook is beefing up Portal's offerings while lowering prices during the holidays for both the small and large versions.

Specifically, Portal's latest software update will see the video chat device gain access to a fresh, Chromium-based web browser that basically turns it into a large tablet. When Portal and Portal+ debuted this year, critics wondered why Facebook had limited the devices so that you couldn't even access your Facebook profile from it.

Facebook is up against tough competitors in Google's Home Hub and Amazon's Echo Show, both of which have dominated the smart device market as Portal struggles to gain its footing. So in a move to attract an audience, Facebook is adding apps from CNN, ESPN and ABC News to Portal's suite of programs. Users will even be able to access YouTube as well as Amazon Prime Video in addition to other streaming providers like Twitch.

Sadly, according to Gizmodo, there will not be support for Netflix, HBO Go or Hulu. But Facebook did buckle to consumer demand and add an entire trove of games from Facebook that users had been clamoring for.

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The update also includes holiday themes for Portal's AR features that slap digital animations on to video chats and support for nicknames.

When it debuted Portal and Portal Plus, Facebook was being bombarded with questions about security and concerns about privacy issues related to their social media platform. Facebook had been on the negative end of a number of huge data breaches, raising concerns about what information it kept on users and how it kept it secure. And those questions quickly turned to Portal and Facebook's data collection policies with the video chat device.

The social media giant initially not been completely open about what data Facebook would keep from Portal-based video and audio calls, coyly telling news outlets that no information from Portal-based calls would be used for advertising. It was then forced to release a statement admitting that they would, in fact, use the things you say on Portal video chats and calls to inform the ads it shows, among a host of other things.

With egg on it face, Facebook told Recode in October that it has every intention of using "this information to inform the ads we show you across our platforms."

"Other general usage data, such as aggregate usage of apps, etc., may also feed into the information that we use to serve ads," Facebook said after being repeatedly pressed on the issue.

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Takeaways

  1. Facebook is updating their Portal and Portal+ devices so that they have a new web browser, games and a suite of apps users can access.
  2. They also lowered the price of the devices for the holiday season and added holiday themes to Portal's AR features.

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Jonathan is a Contributing Writer for CNET's Download.com. He's a freelance journalist based in New York City. He recently returned to the United States after reporting from South Africa, Jordan, and Cambodia since 2013.