New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has challenged designers to come up with ideas for the next generation of public payphones. Bloomberg says the Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge will get New York's "dynamic and ever-growing tech community to ‘Re-Own the Phone' and provide their ideas on what the future of payphones could entail." Applications are to be submitted by February 18th, 2013, and up to 15 entries will be selected for demonstration on March 5th.

It's not clear exactly what kind of ideas the Mayor is hoping for, but maybe that's the point. While previous attempts to revamp the city's payphones have included turning them into wi-fi hotspots and adding touchscreens, these are little more than variations on a well-established theme. The City's current payphone contracts expire in October 2014, so hopefully by then we'll have some more innovative ideas on how to use the infrastructure; right now there are over 11,000 active payphones in New York City.