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NYC Payphones to Get 'Smart Screen' Overhaul

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No longer just an infrequent source of communication, microbes, and occasional pocket change, New York City payphones are about to see a digital overhaul.

Now that nearly every single Gothamite carries a phone on their person at all times, public payphones have looked pretty silly lining street corners in 2012 -- as long as you have a full charge, that is. If you're carrying a completely dead iPhone (AAPL), Droid (GOOG), or BlackBerry (RIMM), then sure, they can come in handy. But according to the New York Post, 250 old phone booths will soon be equipped with 32-inch iPad-esque "smart screens" directing users to a number of services in the area.

Of the tasks these updated kiosks are set to tackle, the Post reports they'll feature "lists of nearby restaurants, store sales in the area, traffic updates, landmark information, and safety alerts -- in multiple languages."

Soon, the screens will be equipped to make Skype (MSFT) calls, access email accounts, and even serve as Wi-Fi hotspots. The service will be free for the user, but supported by ads, giving the city 35% of the ad revenue. If proven successful, the souped-up phone booths will eventually replace New York City's 12,800 outdoor payphones.

Nicholas Sbordone, a spokesman for the city's department of Information Technology & Telecommunications, told the paper, "The goal is to pilot it and see what the response is." Adding, "It will help inform the city's ongoing reassessment, with public input, of what we want or what we think the future of public pay phones will entail."

Hopefully, that includes a Purell dispenser.

But those who've cringed at their own smudge-covered smartphone screens and are wary of getting near of one used by the public may take a little solace. The franchisee behind the installations claimed that the set-ups will be "more sanitary than an ATM" and, since they're waterproof and dust-proof, they can be cleaned with a simple spritz from a jet hose.

Hey, if it's good enough for the sidewalk outside a 24-hour bodega, it's good enough for something I don't plan on ever touching.

(See also: Microsoft Destroys Beloved Franchise's Last Shred of Dignity and AT&T Falsely 'Upgrades' iPhone 4S to 4G)

Twitter: @mcs212

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