This truly is a 'Handy' phone (and every country should have it)

Commentary: How a low-powered, souped-up, mostly 3G phone that gives travelers free local data became my lifeline in Hong Kong.

Jessica Dolcourt Senior Director, Commerce & Content Operations
Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Commerce & Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Commerce, How-To and Performance Optimization. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds. Jessica began leading CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
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Jessica Dolcourt
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A hairline crack, a cheap orange case, slow data speeds. While tooling around Hong Kong, nothing could be dearer to me than a particular phone that in most other circumstances would earn my disdain.

It's called the Handy phone, and docked in 25,000 hotel rooms across Hong Kong (and 12,000 in Singapore), it greets weary travelers with the promise of freedom and independence.


Click for more of Jessica's travel stories around Asia.

Mark Hobbs/CNET

Why? Because not only does it work as a phone to make local calls (like to find a restaurant in a maze of a multi-level mall), the Handy phone's custom Android software gives you unlimited data, Google's maps app to navigate around (this is clutch), and a mini guide to must-see sights.

In addition, Handy's software can book tickets -- say to Disneyland Hong Kong -- giving you something to do while waiting for your delectable dim sum to arrive, or while you amble the city's crowded streets.

Best of all, it's free. You get to pocket a Handy phone just by staying at a hotel that pays a subscription fee to furnish their rooms with these devices. Just knowing a hotel offers this free traveler phone was enough for me to want to pick it over another.

This traveler's phone gives you free, local data (pictures)

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I used my Handy phone all the time: to hunt down a local dessert shop in a six-story mall and to navigate to a restaurant while I walked -- and I didn't have to pay my carrier a dime for expensive roaming data or worry about homing in on a Wi-Fi signal while out and about.

While Handy's phones (which first entered hotel rooms in 2012) may be older Alcatel phones that run on 3G, some area hotels already use models that support faster data, and others will slowly upgrade to 4G.

The Handy phone itself may not be as powerful as those I usually tote around at home, but as long as it connects me to sweet, sweet data, it doesn't have to be.