Festivals ‘n’ phones: 4 ways our mobiles are changing festivals

Using a smartphone at a festival

Festival season is upon us, with Wireless truly kicking off on Friday and Reading and Leeds on the horizon.

Rita Ora belting her heart out may be exciting, but we're noticing an interesting trend: each year, there are more and more smartphones at festivals. And on top of that, they're actually changing the way we experience the festival - in four ways in particular.

1. They mean big demand for mobile services

More mobiles means more demand for not only network coverage, but also mobile internet. Demand is so huge, in fact, that Glastonbury actually partnered with EE in a Very Formal Business Relationship to bring that to its attendees. The last two years have seen EE installing the high-speed herd - that's a small field of gaudy-coloured cows that act as moobile (their word, not ours) 4G Wi-Fi hotspots.

Then there's the all-important question of how to charge your phone. All kinds of gadgets have been produced at festivals over the years for this - everything from wellies to t-shirts. But these days, powering up is most often seen in the form of storage lockers with a charging service, power bar swaps, and, uh, life-size models of bulls. Obviously.

Woman leaning against a green bull

It's not unusual for charging stations to have longer queues than the toilets and even some of the acts. What's interesting here is that the lifespan of our phone batteries hasn't changed massively since we started bring mobiles to festivals - it's just our desperate need to charge them that has. And that's why we're seeing an increase in mobile tech at festivals… and why we're suddenly paying more to use them.

2. They're creating new industries

Losing a phone today is a big deal. Mobile phones are expensive, they're kind of a lifeline, and you're not just losing a phone - you're also losing an alarm clock, a map, a planner, the contact info for all your friends, a virtual lightsaber

And because the bustling, rainy atmosphere of a festival isn't exactly smartphone-friendly, we're seeing a new emerging industry: 'festival phones.' This is a phenomenon in which people are buying a cheap, hardier phone to take with them - so it's less of a big deal if it gets lost or stolen, and its battery life will last over the whole muddy weekend. So-called 'dumbphones' are even being designed for exactly that, like the Nokia 105 with a battery that can last up to 35 days.

Man on phone

Mobile battery chargers, solar chargers, and power bars also see increased sales around festival season, shockingly enough.

In other words, bringing our mobiles to festivals isn't just changing our own experiences - it's also affecting the wider tech industry.

3. They're changing social media

And that doesn't just apply to hardware: festivals alter the social media landscape for a few days too. Better smartphones, with better cameras and better 4G, mean festivalgoers are more inclined to use the likes of Twitter and Facebook while they're there. So that means #bestival trending on Twitter, festival-wide communication about which bands are worth seeing, and increased traffic on certain websites for a week or two.

Of course, it also means craning your neck to see your favourite band perform because of the crowds of smartphones snapping photos in front of you.

And for the rest of us at home on Facebook, it means scrolling through picture after picture of blurry bands, crowds of people we don't know, and mud. Lots of mud.

4. They're making it better and safer

Let's end on a positive note. Taking a smartphone to a festival isn't just about the frantic rush of finding a charging point so you can upload a selfie - our mobiles are also making festivals a better and safer place.

Firstly, having a phone on you means you can keep in contact with your friends. Festivals are big places and it's easy to get lost or split up - and at least this way you can give them a ring, drop them a text, or use GPS to log where your tent is.

Festival tents

Secondly, they can add to the fun. By downloading the festival's official app or following its social media feeds, you can stay in the loop about what's going on as soon as it happens. Then when your favourite band starts playing an epic ballad, you can wave your Zippo lighter app in the air.

And finally, phones keep you safe. You can phone your mum to let her know you're okay - and if you're not okay, you have an easy way of getting in touch with your friends, your family, and the festival's medical team. Plus, we'd always recommend downloading the British Red Cross First Aid app so you know what to do in an emergency.

Find out what other apps we think are essential for festivals.

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