Opinion: Festival advice; leave your phone at home

As the festival season nears it second peak with Reading and Leeds this weekend and Bestival following shortly after, we’ve seen a few stories on ‘best festival apps’ and 'festival proof smartphones’ and the like.

But if you ask me, my advice is; don’t take your expensive app-happy smartphone. Stick your SIM in a cheapy pay-as-you-go-er, or an older phone that you wouldn’t mind losing and use that.

One enduring memory from the Download Festival in 2006 (aside from the pre-Metallica bottle fight) was the sight of some poor unfortunate’s phone languishing in the drop downs.

Drop downs - the types of toilets that are fondly referred to as such at festivals - are basically big tanks with steps leading up to a top level. They're about ten feet high and have twelve or so cubicles, six on each side. They’re toilets in a rather loose sense. They don’t always have roofs. Paper? You should be so lucky.

After the first night of festivities I visited the nearest drop down at midday. The sun was directly on top of the cubicles, creating an oven-like effect. The smell was horrendous. As I got on with the business, I couldn’t help but peer down into the ammonia-scented sump; my eye was drawn to a repeatedly flashing oblong of light. Regular concentric waves emanted from the object. It appeared to be pulsing, vibrating...

It then dawned on me that the object in question was some poor sap’s phone, the flashing light of course being the screen. Someone was ringing it. It looked expensive, if memory serves me it was a Nokia N95. The drop was some six feet. Nobody was going to reach down and get that. Not that they’d want it back...

So the moral is; don’t take anything of value to a music festival unless it you’re happy with it getting stuck somewhere nasty.

Taking a smartphone to a festival isn’t a bright idea for other reasons.

'Hello? Hello. Yeah. I'm at a festival.'

If you’ve ever tried calling someone at any festival, you’ll know how much of a pain it is actually getting reception in the first place.

"The blue tent."

"What?"

"I'm by the big blue tent."

"The blue wha-?"

"Sorry you're breaking up, what's that?"

"Sorry gotta go, Kraftwerk are on."

Everybody else who has lost their mate or is trying to find out which stage the Bloody Beetroots is playing at will be using the network at the same time. Getting through to anyone is a nightmare.

Factor in 3G, if you’re one of those idiots who actually uses Facebook at a festival, and you’re looking at some pretty dismal battery life.

Figures from insurers Protectyourbubble.com show that attendees of pop festivals are the most likely to use Facebook on their phones (24 per cent) compared to rock fans (11 per cent).

Aside from being able to brag to your friends who are at home, I don’t get why you’d want to be on Facebook when you could be having fun at a festival. Walk around, see the sights, buy some organic yoghurt from a stand or something.

While festival apps are kind of handy in that you’ve got access to a map and a programme, consider that when you’re doing this it’s going to eat into your battery life. Though most festivals these days have facilities where you can recharge, do you really want to spend time doing this when you could be watching a band?

Real maps don't need batteries

Protip: A physical paper map and a programme, which you could probably print out from any decent festival’s website, doesn’t need a battery.

It’s also sad fact that stuff gets stolen at festivals. Over 200 phones were stolen at Reading in 2009 and 169 were taken at Glastonbury back in 2001. The Crime Prevention page for Latitude 2011 advises you to memorise you phone’s IMEI number (dial *#06#) and write down your name and number on the phone with a UV pen.

Though taking an iPhone to play music on during the early morning pot noodle cook up, sounds like a good idea, get a cheap portable CD player from Argos and burn off a stack of CD-Rs. If these get stolen or damaged, no big deal.

The only good reason we can think of taking a smartphone to a festival is if you wanted to record any funny incidents (like the afore-linked to bottle fight) for a later YouTube upload.

Obviously it’s also good to have a phone at a festival for keeping in touch with friends, for using as a torch when finding your way back as well.

Bu if it were me, I’d dig out my old Nokia 3310 (hard wearing, long lasting battery etc) or if I really wanted to record something I’d go for the cheapest phone with a video function that I could find.

Something like a Sony Ericsson K800i or any of the old Cybershot series can be had for next to nothing on eBay now. Coincidentally, the lead image for this piece that I’ve taken from Flickr was shot on a K880i.

Otherwise at a festival I’d rather have a beer and go see some bands rather than Facebooking every event for the benefit of people not there.

Image credit: Flickr user Ian Wilson

The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Recombu.