Requiem For The Pay Phone

from the no-more-pay-phone dept

Like most people who own a mobile phone I can’t remember the last time I used a pay phone. Now the Washington Post has an article looking at the slow death of the pay phone. Most pay phones are owned by large phone companies that are making up the losses through mobile phone service and other telecom services. However, the independent operators of mobile phones are uninstalling them as fast as they possibly can. It seems the remaining phones now cost a lot more than they bring in and are driving these firms towards bankruptcy. They say that low income areas are still generating cash, as people there can’t afford mobile phones for themselves yet. Meanwhile, the independent operators of pay phones are moving into offering internet access, internet kiosks, and ATM machines. Of course, if the independent pay phone operators worked the way Hollywood works, they’d be demanding that Congress outlaw mobile phones, since they’re clearly depriving them of revenue. It’s nice to see at least one business trying to adapt to changing markets rather than crying to the government.

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Requiem For The Pay Phone”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
acb (user link) says:

No Subject Given

When I went to London and Edinburgh recently, I saw that (in some more tourist-frequented areas) there were “Internet phones”, from BT, which had a large screen, a QWERTY keyboard and trackball, and would allow you to surf the web for 50p for 5 minutes.

Interesting idea, but the implementation was rather shoddy. For one, the use of ruggedised payphone keypad buttons for the keyboard made the thing impossible to type on except for very slowly. Also, the browser software didn’t understand either SSL or HTTP authentication, making it useless for things like checking mail over a secure connection, blog posting, &c.

If they ironed these bugs out, they could be quite useful.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: What about disposable cell phones

There were actually 3 companies working on “disposable” cell phones. The one you’re thinking of, Hop-On Wireless, got in some trouble for showing a prototype that was a Nokia with a different cover. However, their “real” phone isn’t a Nokia. That was just for demonstration purposes. The company claims that they’re still moving forward with plans to offer the service, but I have my doubts. They had also put out press releases announcing deals with places like 7-Eleven and Chevron to sell the phones, but those deals turned out to be fake. The company also had gotten in trouble for being involved in a scam to “fleece investors out of $20 million” and not filing a corporate tax return for two years.

They did recently receive approval from the FCC for their phones, but I still have my doubts about how strong the company actually is.

The second company that was working on such phones, Telespree, has completely changed their business model, and now are working on systems to make it easier for mobile carriers to turn on a new mobile phone instead. It seems they realized the market for disposable mobile phones was a weak one, and there was a bigger, more profitable market selling the backend software they wrote instead.

The third company is called Diceland, and they’re working on a disposable mobile phone printed on paper. I think they’re still a ways off on their technology.

dorpus says:

Re: Re: What about disposable cell phones

Yeah, ok. Refreshes my memory. I remember having a Sprint cell phone back in 1999, and they told me it is very difficult to get a 408 number. When I got a new cell phone recently, had no problem, and the sales clerk seemed confused by my question, like he never heard of such a shortage. So maybe they have better software now for recycling unused numbers.

Along those lines, I was once invited to an interview with a company in downtown San Jose, or something, that was very secretive about what they do. When I got there, they told me they planned to sell email addresses with the person’s phone number within the address. It sounded really stupid, and I said so, and the guy was like “oh, you picked up on that.” And they gave some weird talk about how it’s their software but it’s not really their software, but I’m going to write software on some stand-alone desktop and it’s not going to be used. Seems to have been a scam that never got off the ground.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...