Smartphone Rental Startup Handy Expands Out Of Hong Kong

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Handy, a smartphone rental service out of Hong Kong, has launched operations in Singapore.

The company offers smartphones for rent to travelers at $9 (HKD 68) a day—$12 (S$15) a day in Singapore—and the price includes unlimited 3G data and international calls.

The Handy brand comes under its CEO, Terence Kwok’s startup effort called Tink Labs, and is its first and only project thus far. The firm is less than a year old, but today has 75 people working for it.

It started in April last year, and in September launched Handy in Kwok’s home country of Hong Kong. So far, it has placed its service counters at tourist hot spots, such as at the Hong Kong International Airport, as well as the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai and a visitor center run by the country’s tourism board located in the Tsim Sha Tsui district.

Kwok, who was born in the US and raised in the Hong Kong, said the decision to expand so soon in Singapore was in large part accelerated by the local tourism board’s offer to allow Handy to set up a service desk at its visitor center along the Orchard Road shopping street. “We weren’t planning to launch in Singapore till the second quarter of the year, initially,” he said.

handy Singapore

Handy’s devices are primarily Samsung Galaxy Note phones, and its software developers have put a custom UI on them that opens at a landing page with deals and recommendations for sightseeing and restaurants.

It’s still populating the Singapore version with more content, but its Hong Kong version includes deals with tours and ticketed items such as ferry rides that you can book through the app. Just show the phone at the venue and you’re set, said Kwok.

What I found surprising about the UI was that the company will also let you install apps from Google Play, which many firms don’t allow. It’ll also allow tethering, so for the price, you could tether a laptop in a pinch and get some surfing done outside of a Wi-Fi zone.

So far, Handy has 2,000 phones in its inventory, and is looking to strike up bulk deals with Android manufacturers to increase its stock. When a user rents out a device, the company puts an authorization hold on their credit cards, so in the event of a device getting broken or lost, the amount to fix or replace it is charged to the card.

Kwok said that Hong Kong received over 42 million international travelers last year alone. Americans, in particular, often travel with carrier-locked phones, so a simple SIM card rental service can be challenging, and he expects them to be an important target market for the service.

Kwok launched the company with undisclosed funding from Hong Kong and Macau investors, as well as his own funds.

There are some other companies that loan connected devices to tourists in Singapore, such as TouristPads and SGPad. TouristPads has been around since mid last year, and it looks like SGPad was launched back in 2009. To Handy’s credit, it seems like it may stand out in a market of iPad rental shops and its service is one of the more affordable. SGPad’s rate is $39.90 a day, and TouristPads’ is $24 a day, although the latter provides some perks like free delivery to the airport or your hotel.