Taipei’s Pay Phones: A Relic of the Past?

Taipei’s Pay Phones: A Relic of the Past?
Photo Credit: Jeremy Van der Haegen
What you need to know

Taipei's pay phones are slowly disappearing from the street view.

Public pay phones are a familiar sight on Taipei’s streets, but their numbers are dwindling. As smartphones became our primary communication tool, the metallic devices seen around most MRT stations and convenience stores are going out of fashion 

Taiwan’s telecommunications giant Chunghwa Telecom tried to modernize the booths in 2016 to improve usage. Some phone booths were outfitted with free Wi-Fi and the option to pay by iPass, iCash, EasyCard or Taiwan Easy Go next to cash and credit cards.

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Photo Credit: Jeremy Van der Haegen
Taiwan's 150,000 public pay phones across the island fell to around 40,000 since the mobile phone market broke through.

Despite this effort, their numbers have fallen nationwide. Taiwan had an estimated number of 150,000 public pay phones across the island 20 years ago. This number reportedly plunged down to only around 40,000 units in 2018.

Chunghwa Telecom told The News Lens that Taipei's 5,811 pay phones only generate an average of NT$240 per month per unit, which accounted for a small fraction of the company's total revenue of NT$215 billion in 2018. A drop in profitability and popularity means the future of the city’s pay phones is looking bleak. 

We captured a number of pay phones in their gritty integrated context, among the nooks and crannies of Taipei's alleys and streets. Their tattered and worn down states perfectly reflect the state of this declining urban phenomenon. 

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Photo Credit: Jeremy Van der Haegen
A pay phone on Xianyang Road, across from the National Museum. It's one of the newer models featuring the option to pay by iPass, iCash, EasyCard, and Taiwan Easy Go.
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Photo Credit: Jeremy Van der Haegen
A pay phone on Hengyang Road, Zhongzheng District.

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TNL Editor: Daphne K. Lee (@thenewslensintl)

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