Festival season and mobile: The ugly truth

by James Whatley on 14th June 2010

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There now follows a minor rant by James Whatley…

‘Here in the UK, festival season is kicking off a plenty and with the great and the good outdoor musical bonanzas just ’round the corner it falls to the mobile industry to produce a veritable banquet of hand-held software and hardware to help the savvy, mud dwelling, sun-loving festival fan this season.’

You’ll probably be reading this kind of opener quite a lot in the national press over the next month or so. Both online and off, journalists and bloggers alike will extolling the virtues of what you should be packing in your tent-rammed sack this year

So, instead of doing the same old, same old – I’m just going to offer some pointers. Having done the mobile festival thing a couple of years running, and having also sent a few tweets from the middle of the Namibian desert, I’d like to think I can offer a bit of first-hand experience when it comes to travelling light while maintaining a degree of connectivity.

First of all, software:

I will say this only once. The only good piece of software is one that SAVES BATTERY. Full stop. End of. If your mobile app depends on any of the following things, forget it:

  • GPS to find out where your mates are? Forget it.
  • Connecting to your online database of musical choices and downloads your pre-planned schedule? Forget it.
  • Interacting with other people using a specific app or mobile website? Forget it.

At any festival, the ability to make and receive phone calls and text messages is literally THE ONLY THING THAT IS OF ANY VALUE.

When deciding who’s going where to see what and when we might all meet up later, having two fully-charged mobile phones within the group is paramount to any successful festival plan. This means if you lose each other, you can still find each other. If you lose each other in the crowd and you can’t call or text anyone because you’ve been too busy trying to match your location to that of the nearest Arcade Fire fan (hint; they’re right next to you) and your battery is dead because of it, trust me – you are going to be annoyed.

The mobile battery is THE currency at festivals. Nothing else. If your app eats my battery, I won’t use it.


In the same way as the app and the mobile website the key thing here is to REMEMBER THE PRACTICALITIES.

Wellie-tricity? Really? Eesh..

These wellies for instance are practical – albeit little more than another Glastonbury-based PR stunt from Orange (exactly how much energy will these boots produce?), they at least start thinking about what people actually might need.

Everyone gets given a gig guide as they enter any festival, most of them wear that around their necks and, if they haven’t already planned their gig routine beforehand, they most certainly will do it upon arrival.

Solar chargers are famously pants for any kind of real impact and the wind up chargers are just that – a total wind up.

No no my friends, if you’re planning on embarking on festival season this year then my advice to you would be to take a BUNCH load of (already charged) batteries , maybe a couple of spare phones (ones which you don’t care about too much obviously) and of course, a healthy dose of serendipity.

There are a fair few phones recently released with actual anthropological study at their heart. Be they handsets with extra-long life or devices that simply have a torch embedded in their casing. These are the kind of things you’ll need when you’re stumbling through the dark at 3am, looking around for that red pole that you are certain you left your tent near. Trust me, by this time the batteries on any amount of fancy, super-smart, techno-mobile wizardry will be long dead and you’ll be cursing yourself for just checking twitter that one last time…

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