A handy way of staying in touch abroad

By Elsa Plumley

I recently travelled to Asia for the first UXSG conference in Singapore. On my way there I made a quick stop in Hong Kong to catch up with a few friends and fill up on dim sum.

Inspired by my recent research into how to support travel customers throughout the holiday lifecycle, I decided to test out a new service designed to help travellers make the most of their time in Hong Kong.

Handy rents Samsung Galaxy Note handsets with unlimited 3G internet access and unlimited local and international calls to travellers. The device also comes loaded with a number of useful travel apps (Google Maps, Kayak, XE currency converter) and a deals and vouchers section offering me discounts in the local area. The service costs just £6 a day, a no-brainer given that my own network would like to charge me £1.70 a minute just to make phone calls.

The pick-up desk for the device is conveniently located in the Arrivals hall in Hong Kong airport. In less than 5min I have my new travel companion in hand, with a spare fully charged battery so I’m good to go for at least a few days.

Interestingly, the company doesn’t offer the option to purchase damage excess waiver insurance for the handset – a reminder that, despite an increasing appetite for insurance products in Asia in recent years, the insurance market has not yet reached the level of maturity of the European market. Making a mental note to take extra care of the device, I set out on my adventures in the city.

Having the device does enhance my holiday experience. It helps me out in moments of stress – I use maps to find my way around the city when I get lost and check how much my shopping is going to cost me in GBP before I make a big purchase. And it helps to make special moments even better – I can upload photos to Facebook and instantly share my experiences with friends and I call my family at home a hell of a lot more than I usually would do on holiday.

Having access to low cost data and calls while I’m out and about makes me feel like I can use my phone with the freedom that I do when I’m in the UK. It’s there with me during my peaks in sensation so it gets remembered as part of the experience (if you haven’t already, make sure you read Tom’s blog on the behavioural economics of travel which talks more about the Peak End Rule).

The only glitch I encounter is when I discover that Handy’s mobile website isn’t optimised for the Samsung Galaxy note (d’oh!) so I can’t use it to find out when I have to get the device back by. I later discover that the return desk is in the Arrivals, not Departures hall at the airport. When I finally find it though, it only takes a quick check over the device for damage and a factory reset to erase all of my data before I’m off again.

All in all, Handy is a nice concept that shows a good understanding of travellers’ needs in a foreign city. I hope to see other travel providers thinking about innovative ways to enhance the holiday makers’ experiences on the ground soon.

Elsa Plumley

As Experience Design Director, I oversee the quality of the Experience Design work we do for our clients here at Foolproof. My particular area of focus is ensuring the quality of the advice we provide to our clients, right from how best to organise themselves and approach tackling a business challenge, through to how best to solve specific design problems.

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