High-tech payphone concept with free Wi-Fi wins NYC design challenge

High-tech payphone concept with free Wi-Fi wins NYC design challenge

The people of New York have spoken. They’ve chosen a spiffy new payphone design with free Wi-Fi access and interactive advertising as the winner of a Reinvent Payphones design challenge.

Sadly, the People’s Choice award doesn’t guarantee that this design, dubbed NYFi, will ever see the light of day. The city has said that the concepts from the design contest will “help shape the future of New York City payphones.”


The proposed NYFi design comes in two models, one for commercial districts and a smaller version for residential and historic areas. It would be based on an open software platform with modular hardware that could replace bus tickets machines, Muni Meters, MetroCard machines, assistance kiosks and bicycle share stations.


NYC put out a call for designs to its public phone system late last year. 15 submissions were chosen as semi-finalists to demo their prototypes at at a Demo Day last week and then the popular choice winner was decided by the all-important Facebook page vote.

NYFi originally won the award for Best Connectivity. Other designs won for Best Visual Design, Best in Creativity, Best Functionality and Best Community Impact.

I think the moral of the story here is that if you offer anyone free Wi-Fi, they’ll vote for you (though, to be fair, some of the other designs did too). It’s kind of like that kid in elementary school who always won the class president election by promising free soda in the cafeteria.

In all seriousness, though, there’s some great work across these winning designs. Some of them might take a bit of work to implement in real-world situations, but they’re definitely working to reimagine the payphone’s role in the city.

With just about everyone carrying around a cell phone these days, the usefulness of traditional payphones is winding down. There’s plenty of room for disruption here, and we’re grateful to the designers that are imagining how to improve them.

Images via iStockphotoNYCDigital

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