NYC reinvents the pay phone

City competition attracts entries that transform the concept of public urban communication.

March 12, 2013 |
frog Beacon won the visual design category with this 12-foot kiosk. Image: NYC M

New York City is on a mission to build a better payphone for the digital age. 

A few months ago, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched a design challenge with the Reinvent Payphones initiative. The goal: Crowdsource ways to revitalize and upgrade the city's 11,000 pay phones. 

Last night, the city announced the six winning prototypesSome of the submissions imagined pay phone kiosks with air pollution sensors, solar-powered cell phone chargers, and screens controlled by hand gestures and voice commands. 

The city judged the prototypes based on connectivity, creativity, visual design, functionality, and community impact. 

New York City's contracts for its pay phones expire in October 2014. The winners of the Reinvent Payphone Design Challenge aren't guaranteed contracts, but the city will take those designs into consideration when determining what to do with New York's pay phones. 

Already, the city has converted some payphones into Wi-Fi hotspots. And in November 2012, it replaced 10 booths in Union Square with touchscreens for maps, public service announcements, and entertainment listings. 


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