Free Hotel Smartphone Rental Finally Lands in the US
For years, hotels throughout Asia, Europe and other regions have offered smartphones to their guests to use free of charge for the duration of their stay.
The service, provided by a company called Handy, includes an Android handset loaded up with popular apps and support for free international phone calls, mobile data and even room-to-room calling. Hotels, not guests, pay $1 per device per day.
Handy is apparently available in roughly 650,000 hotel rooms in 82 countries around the world, so I was surprised to learn that hotels in the United States hadn't yet offered the service. That changed just this week — the NoMo SoHo Hotel in New York City is the first property to hand out Handy smartphones in the US.
According to the hotel, these particular devices include the following:
- Free voice calling to Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain and the UK
- Free data plan
- A one-time New York City phone number and personal extension
- Connectivity to the hotel and direct dial to hotel services anytime, anywhere
- Pre-loaded with emergency contacts and essential travel information to make travel hassle-free
- A complete listing of NoMo SoHo’s discounts and promotions at neighborhood retailers and service providers
- Access to LUXOS, a local luxury lifestyle and travel guide that allows travelers to discover new experiences
- Ability to download apps, import contacts and upload photos
- Connections to social media accounts, web browsers and maps/directions
- All personal data is auto-erased upon check-out
I haven't stayed at the NoMo SoHo myself, but the property appears to be decently popular on TripAdvisor — it's currently ranked #269 of 479 hotels in New York City, with an average rating of 4.0. Weekday rates are usually well above $300, but I found some weekend dates closer to the $200 mark.
Unfortunately you can't book a stay on points — and the property doesn't participate in Amex's phenomenal Fine Hotels & Resorts program, or Chase's Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection — but if you're visiting from out of the country, the ability to avoid buying a local SIM or paying roaming charges could help make a stay more affordable overall.