'Smart Screens' To Replace Pay Phones

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To be honest, we can't remember the last time we consciously noticed a pay phone in the city (that is, save for ones used in the episodes of Felicity we've been watching on Netflix). But the New York Post reports today that 250 phone booths will get high tech updates within the next month. Now-obsolete phones will be replaced by 32-inch "smart screens," which will provide users with neighborhood information and connect them to 311. The screens could indeed eventually sub in for all of the 12,800 outdoor pay phones throughout the city -- their franchise contracts will be done come October 2014.

The screens -- which, don't worry, won't get too grimy, their installer promises -- will feature "lists of nearby restaurants, store sales in the area, traffic updates, landmark information and safety alerts -- in multiple languages." Eventually, patrons will be able to use them for Skype calls, checking email, and getting WiFi. The Post notes, though:

But New Yorkers shouldn't plan on using the tablets as mobile offices, or sites for anonymous Internet trolling: The search capabilities on the tablets will be protected and controlled.

No, you can troll all you want on your personal smart phone. Which is something to keep in mind: so many New Yorkers already traipse around the city with their heads buried in their iPhones, Blackberries and iBerries, who becomes the target audience for these new phones-of-the-future?

In fact, the below-ground pay phone replacement plans seem more useful. They will have, among other features, outlets for phone-charging, saving us from the oft frustrating "I just need to stop home so I can charge my phone then I'll meet you at designated location" run.

City 'i's new phone booths [New York Post]

[EstherZuckerman / ezwrites]

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