When was the last time you used a payphone? If you’re like me, it was probably before you bought your first cell phone. Most of us don’t remember anyone’s phone number well enough to use a payphone these days. But all these phones are still lining public places around the country, some in booths, others attached to walls. The city of New York has a plan to make them useful again. Soon, about 250 phone booths around the city will have their phones ripped out and replaced with 32-inch touchscreens, reports the NY Post. The touchscreens — dubbed “smart screens” — will give relevant info about local neighborhoods and city information. Eventually, they may even make calls.
The screens will also give lists of nearby restaurants, local store sales, traffic updates, and safety alerts for the area, as well as the ability to access 311 online to file complaints or request city information. In the future, the touchscreens will be able to access email, make calls using Skype, and possibly act as Wi-Fi hotspots, though Internet access may be limited to on the screen itself.
Even cooler, the new screens won’t cost New York anything to install or maintain. Current payphones bring in about $18 million per year for the city, but eventually these units could meet or exceed that number. They’re built to be water- and dust-proof, and can be cleaned with a hose; third party companies are going to maintain them for a cut of profits (NYC will get 36 percent of ad revenue). If the pilot program goes well, all of the cities 12,500 payphones could be replaced.
Twenty-two-inch underground computer kiosks are also slated to replace phones in areas like subway stations. If you’re planning to use a payphone in NYC, you might want to do it quick.