Now that we've moved from maps to apps, and embraced social media as the easiest way to connect with family and friends when travelling, smartphones have been upgraded to almost must-have kit on overseas trips.
Affordable roaming deals such as Vodafone's $5/day plans have taken the sting out of staying in touch, but Hong Kong-based Marco Polo Hotel group has come up with a novel alternative: guests at any of its three harbourside properties are handed a free smartphone to use during their stay.
It may be a relatively basic Android model but it comes with unlimited 3G data and unlimited local calls (plus free calls to China, the Philippines, Japan, the USA and the UK).
You can also fire up the device's 3G-to-WiFi mode to create a hotspot which your own non-roaming smartphone or tablet can tap into.
The phone comes with popular apps including Google Maps, Skype, Facebook, Twitter and WeChat, along with a handy currency converter and translator, and of course you can easily connect to your GMail account with a few taps.
You can also load your own choice of apps from the Google Play app store – just be sure to remove them or wipe & reset the entire smartphone before you check out of the hotel!
Also loaded for your convenience: a guide and trip planner for Hong Kong's MTR metro system, visitor guides, links to activities such as city tours and special offers for shopping and dining.
All up, this is a pretty great set of apps for the traveller, although the phone itself is a tad slow when it comes to loading and switching between apps.
People can also dial your smartphone to ensure that no important business calls are missed while you're out and about.
The on-loan smartphone is available to guests at Marco Polo's HongJong Hotel, Gateway Hotel and Prince Hotel, all of which are located in Tsim Sha Tsui's Harbour City complex on Canton Road.
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