NYC offers free electricity for power starved smartphones

Smartphone batteries are like vampires -- they have an unquenchable thirst for blood (ok, electricity). It is very hard to make it through the day on a single charge. This is especially true in a metropolis like New York City, where people are constantly on the go -- and constantly on their smartphones. A dead cell phone is not just an inconvenience for New Yorkers; it is a social and professional death.

AT&T and Goal Zero (a renewable and reliable solar power company) are aiming to solve this problem. Starting today, they will be deploying solar-powered charging stations in 17 locations throughout all five boroughs -- Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island. They will only remain there for 90 days, but that's fine as this is the time when the weather gets warmer and people spend more time outdoors. Each charging station will have 6 USB connections and will offer enough power to even charge an iPad.

While this service is a welcomed addition for New Yorkers, it does have both pros and cons.

The benefit of course, is that people will be able to keep their cellphones and mobile devices working. As stated earlier, this will help people with social and business communication. It is also especially important for parents who depend on cellphones to keep in contact with their children -- the excuse of "my cell phone died" can no longer be used. Plus, a charged cellphone allows a person to call 911 and will potentially save lives and prevent crime.

The negative is that these locations can potentially be the target of theft. A thief can easily pretend to be charging their cellphone and snatch a victim’s phone when they aren’t paying attention. Smartphone theft has been so rampant in NYC, that task forces have been assembled and kill switches have been proposed. If theft at these locations becomes common, they will no longer be used.

While AT&T should be applauded for implementing this great service, there is no such thing as a free lunch -- the project is projected to cost between $300,000 and $500,000. Tiered data plans are now the norm and AT&T customers can’t go over their data limits with a dead cell phone. These charging stations will benefit AT&T as it will cause its customers to use more data.

Photo Credit: Thomas Pajot/Shutterstock

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