Losing your phone at a festival a used to be just a real far-out bummer man.
Now with bank apps, emails, incriminating pictures, your phone is an invitation to be blackmailed, divorced or arrested. A lost phone infinitely more so.
You know the story one minute it was right there in your pocket, the next it wasn’t. Granted, the next moment is waking up in a random tent with some teenager dressed in a floral onesie, but as drunk hang ups segue into panic you know that, all said and done, you’ve screwed yourself.
A search ensues. The tent, pockets, the surrounding area, the teenager, and for the hundredth time, your damn pockets. The endless permutations of hope and depression dully interspersed with epic treks to lost and found offices (all varieties), questioning acquaintances (all varieties), and the dismal death of last night’s summoning vibration.
The following days see your phone barred, bank apps cancelled , email sent and passwords changed, Plus the lingering horror of knowing that if anyone nefarious was bothered they’d have more access to your life than your most ardent emergency contact. Having been a victim of identity fraud a couple of times now, I feel your pain, it’s easy to slip into paranoia, especially during an ear-ringing hangover.
With another festival looming, the question of having that much at stake in one’s pocket should fill you with dread. Happily we have the technology and others have come up with a solution. Following on from a Facebook post by an experienced festival person, there is a lot to be said for a surrogate festival phone: a Burner’s Burner.
The basic premise is to get a Pay As You Go (PAYG) phone as cheaply as possible and then use number redirection to transfer all your calls to the Burner.
A second option would be to move your SIM (Subscriber Identification Module) card into a cheap phone – the danger of this is that the SIM contains information that might be insecure if lost. However, on the plus side, you have all your numbers for the duration of the festival.
In terms of dirt cheap phones there are a few of options that are reasonably universal: the Nokia 105, Samsung e1200, or Samsung e1190. We ain’t going to do a full-on comparison here, as they’re more less interchangeable, but there are some factors to think about.
Key things to look for in a festival phone
Standby/talk time: this depends on the battery and also how much juice your phone uses. These cheaper phones normally have their features stripped right back and have a standby time of 700-800hrs and talk time of around 7 – 12 hours (Nokia 105). Which, obviously, is a loooong time. It’s possible that you won’t need to charge your phone at all during a standard fourday festival, or the following week.
Bear in mind that your festival time will also include the travel days – usually the days when you’ll be using your phone most critically (taxis and rendezvous).
There are now an abundant number of stands at most festivals aimed at recharging your phone, however they often charge at least £5 per charge (often more) and can take 3-6 hours for your inconvenience. Avoiding that hassle is something to cherish.
Non specialist charging: If by some chance your phone does run out of juice there nothing worse than requiring some sort of attachment that looks like it’s used for catching squid to charge your phone. The most common charger these days is the Samsung/Blackberry/Micro-USB charger which is something to bear in mind. Especially, if your main phone uses that attachment.
Coverage: This is less to do with the phone and more to do with the PAYG carrier that you use. Vodafone has an anecdotal reputation for being the best in non-urban areas but it’s also pricier. According to this article by Uswitch there isn’t much in it, and they’re very cagey about showing a clear winner. Sites like Ukmobilecoverage give a better idea of what’s covered where and which PAYG SIM is best for your festival.
Of course, as a rule of thumb, if a festival is sponsored by a phone company they usually put up a temporary mast and if you get a SIM free phone you can juggle between carriers depending on where you’re going and the best coverage per site.
Internet & Wi-Fi: It would be nice, but in many cases the display on these phones makes Wi-Fi very laborious. Besides which, getting away from the email chain for a few days is definitely what the soul requires. That said, the Samsung E1200 has internet and data capability.
Operating System: Sometimes familiarity is a good thing and if you so desired you could transfer your key numbers across to the burner using standard software that comes with your primary phone.
Torch: Kills your battery very quickly but also very handy for finding things in dark tents. The Nokia does have a dedicated torch feature, however any phone with a backlit screen has a ‘torch’.
More features and expensive models: If you want a spend a bit more you can get a phone that does more but again, the more features a phone has the less time you’ll get on your battery. Consider those super cheap sunglasses that never break and never get lost. It’s not much of superstitious stretch to imagine that these phones will behave in the same way. Also the build quality of cheaper phones seems to be very robust.
Conclusions and other considerations: Don’t leave it until the last minute. Credit for new phones can take up to 48 hours to come online, and you want to give you phone a proper 12 hour charge before using it in anger. To this end it might be worth going into a noncarrier-aligned store for a PAYG SIM comparison.
Which phone do we recommend? It’s hard to say. They all have their benefits, but it’s hard to go past the build and impressive 12.5 hour talk time (840hrs standby – yes a frankly unbelievable 35 days) of the Nokia 105, which despite living in a Samsung house could swing it for us on battery time alone. It also comes in bright blue and at the time of writing costs £9.95 with a £20 Vodafone PAYG SIM (with unlimited texts ) from Carphone Warehouse. While this deal isn’t the cheapest, the texts and coverage mean that communications are prioritised.
Like all festival misgivings this deal too shall pass and there are very good deals to be had for similar phones from own-brand retailers like Tesco (o2 network) and ASDA. For instance the Nokia 100 (574hrs standby, 4 hours talk) can be had for £14 (handset and credit) from Tesco, which is a good deal by anyone’s standards.
Happy partying and on with the show, sans onesie.
Smartphone photo by Thom Weerd. Additional images from Nokia and Samsung.
Editor, founder, fan.