Get smart: phone booths and the memories

With the growing popularity of mobile phones, the public phone booths have been gathering dust. Shanghai Daily photographer Wang Rongjiang documented the buzz of change.

Public phone booths first appeared in Shanghai streets in the early 1990s when very few people could afford cell phones and a pager was still a luxury. At its peak, the city had more than 8,000 public phone booths. Yet with the growing popularity of mobile phones, the public phone booths have been gathering dust. Shanghai Daily photographer Wang Rongjiang documented the buzz of change.

1995

Wang Rongjiang / SHINE

A young woman makes a call on a coin-box telephone in a metro station on Line 1. 

1999

Wang Rongjiang / SHINE

Two men use public phones. The man on the right has a pager on his belt. 

2002

Wang Rongjiang / SHINE

People line up to make phone calls at a public booth in Pudong. In the background is Jin Mao Tower, the highest building in Pudong at the time. 

2003

Wang Rongjiang / SHINE

A woman makes phone call at the Shanghai Railway Station.

2018

Wang Rongjiang / SHINE

Pedestrians absorbed in their cell phones walk past a statue featuring a girl making a call on a public phone on Huaihai Road. 

Wang Rongjiang / SHINE

Some people still prefer public phones. This elderly man says it is cheaper to make calls on public phones with a discounted prepaid card. And it is very easy to lose a cell phone, he says. 

Wang Rongjiang / SHINE

A street sweeper leans her broom against a public phone. 

Wang Rongjiang / SHINE
Wang Rongjiang / SHINE

Forgotten phone booths are used as tea rooms and storage rooms. Almost obsolete, they are fast disappearing.

Wang Rongjiang / SHINE
Wang Rongjiang / SHINE

Recently, some booths have been refitted with books or artworks. Authorities hope that the makeover will make the iconic red phone booths popular again.

Read the related story: 

Decades of recording life's dramas, minute by minute

Located in Mianjin Lane, a 3-square-meter booth is probably the last neighborhood public telephone in Shanghai.

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