Festival Phone Guide – Summer’s here and the time is right for a cheapo festival phone

Staff Writer
June 4, 2013

The Rolling Stones and Arctic Monkeys are headlining Glastonbury, while the Stone Roses and Bon Jovi will be doing the main stage honours at the Isle of Wight. Yes, summer’s soon here and the time will be right for dancing knee-deep in mud, queuing an hour for the loo and washing with baby wipes for three days. But it’s not just the Big Two of Glasto and the IOW that will be attracting thousands of dedicated music fans to squash in to some gooey field that is forever England. A quick Google search reveals more than 60 music festivals between June and September.  

So while you (or the family teenager) are revelling in good vibrations while enjoying Downtown Mogadishu-style hygiene and catering, there is one smart thought to keep in mind:


It’s obvious. A gathering of many thousands of off-their-heads loons exploring the legal limits of hedonism is not completely conducive to the safe passage of a glittering iPhone/BlackBerry/HTC/Galaxy/Xperia/Fill-In-Your-Own-Choice pocket super-computer that happens to let you make phone calls. Apart from the fact it will have to be charged every night.

Waking up among the detritus generated by several people in a two-man tent and finding out your beloved £530 Electronic Life Support System has been lost/nicked/cracked or covered with the contents of Kevin’s tummy is going to spoil your day so much that not even a shoulder massage from Jon Bon-Jovi is going to cheer you up.

But, we hear you (metaphorically) cry, “I NEED my smartphone”. Sure you do. We know you want to have one gadget that does all the stuff you need it to do at a festival: call your mates, locate your tent with GPS, listen to your MP3 files when the Arctics get cold, Twitter your Tweets, and Facebook the world.

But we’ve yet to meet a smartphone we liked that could survive being recovered from a festival latrine (bet that got your attention). You need a phone to communicate with your massive/gang/posse/buddies etc by text and voice. But we bet your mobile won’t leave the festival in the same condition as it arrived (if at all).

But, what if you could have a phone that you couldn’t care less about losing? A phone that is a fashion fail but will get you through the weekend or die trying? And all for less than £40?

So let us present our Festival Guide To El Cheapo handsets that are just perfect for one-night stands rather than the long-term loving relationship enjoyed by you and your touchscreen honey.

Because they don’t have to power big screens, multi-core processors, GPS and apps, the battery will last days. There won’t be much in the way of 3G (if you need to browse the internet at a festival perhaps you should be considering another line of fun) and you can forget about built-in cameras. These babies are voice and text animals. For the few quid they cost you won’t hear us complain about ‘lack of connectivity’.

And here’s one more piece of advice: when you buy your Festival cheapie, don’t use your usual contract SIM. Buy a new prepay SIM instead. Forward your calls to the new number, and load it with no more than £10 credit. If it gets stolen, you won’t get a £2,500 bill from your airtime provider after the person who nicked/found it made unlimited calls to Sydney (as in Australia) and downloaded HD TV shows from YouTube.

Alcatel OT-217D £15

ALCATEL-OT-217DGood news for those of you with complex social and private lives who need to carry around two phones with two numbers. In Festival mode that’s double trouble. But here’s a £5 phone that takes two SIM cards. Which is always nice when you want to give different phone numbers to different people. You can receive calls and texts for both numbers.

That big button keypad makes it easy to punch out calls and texts when you’re being jostled in the mosh pit. Heck, a built-in handsfree speaker and/or the included mono headset means you don’t even have to put your drink down or stop clapping to talk.

But the biggest Festival-friendly feature is a built-in torch. When you’re staggering through the pitch dark on a farm track back to your tent at 3am, imagine how pleased you’ll be that you read What Mobile’s Guide to Festival Friendly Phones when that Alcatel OT-21D bright light gets you safely back to your own sleeping bag (maybe your friend will have one as well). The best £15 you’ve spent this year? We think so.

Doro PhoneEasy 506 £39.95

Doro-PhoneEasy-506Doro designs its phones for ‘senior’ people of a certain age (hello Dad). But we think the PhoneEasy 506 is just what you need for a dirty Festival weekend. Big buttons and an idiot-proof display makes it perfect to compose texts and make calls when Festival exhaustion makes it harder than usual to operate a touchscreen. Throw in a battery that can take a licking and come up ticking (Doro reckons there’s enough juice in the tank to run this baby for four days) and this phone ticks boxes.

An alarm function will do its bit to get you out of your tent by 12 noon. And look   ‘ a pre-programmed one-touch ‘Assistance’ speed dial button summons the one you love (or the cops) to your side with one push of a finger.   Luxury. An amplified volume control is not just for the hard of hearing. It will also come in handy when 10,000 fans are screaming for a Mick ‘n Keef encore and your Mum calls. The Doro PhoneEasy is a Festival favourite. Best of all, when you get home you can give it to your Gran. Win win.

Samsung E1200 £25

Samsung-E1200Apart from sliding down a 40-foot razor blade there’s nothing worse than pitching up to see your favourite band on the Pyramid Stage at 3pm, only to find they were rocking their little socks off an hour earlier on the Other Stage and you’re left with Ed Sheeran’s encore. Aaagh. Which is why canny Festival veterans work out their plan of attack in advance.   Enter the E1200. With its built-in organiser, set the alarm and reminder alarms and categories and never suffer from a misguided gig again.

It’s also one for all you ladies with small pockets and bags and an ability to talk for 10 hours non-stop. A large keypad and battery that will run for 800 hours on standby makes the E1200 your best Festival friend.

Are you sold on the E1200 yet? No? Well wait until we tell you it’s also got a pre-programmed SOS message feature. What can be better than being able to instantly text “Just recovering in the St John’s Ambulance tent” to all your pre-programmed contacts?

And all for £25. Nice.

Nokia 100 £20

Nokia are the guvnors of the low-cost mobile. They sell millions every day. So if a cheap Nokia is good enough for a Thai taxi driver you can bet it will also do the business in Brighton. Small and light, with a textured grip to stay in hands slippery with mud and alcohol makes this a VIP poseur’s friendnokia-100_take2

This   tough little critter will man up to all kinds of   Festival abuse, such as being dropped, rolled over on and subjected to the usual harmless depravity away from home.

Outstanding battery life?

Natch, especially with a power-save mode that boosts standby time. And, praise the Lord, another phone with a torch. Midnight bliss.

The speaking alarm clock may not rouse you from your cider-induced slumber, but it will give it a heroic try. And you’d have to be a rocking rock star to require space for more than 500 close friends that the Nokia 100’s contacts book allows. And if the live music gets too awful, put on the included stereo headset, turn on the built-in tuner and groove to the sweet sculptural rhythms of Radio 4. Crazy baby.

LG A100 Amigo O2 £20 plus £10 Top Up

With a small, 65k colour, 1.5-inch colour screen and a straightforward menu, the “2G-only Amigo” LG A100 defines ‘basic phone’.LG A100

Let’s face it. A screen resolution of just 128 x 128 pixels is not going to burn anyone’s retina, but for basic text and voice calls on a massive campsite this little phone represents   astounding value.

Lack of frills such as a camera or internet connectivity means it will last more than a week between charges of its 950 mAh battery.

So that’s one less battery charger you need to pack in your Festival luggage (not that you’d find it easy to find a charging point once you got there).

The inclusion of a Festival-friendly torch will light up your way in the 3am darkness, assuming of course you don’t party through the night.

Once the Festival is over, just donate it the first Big Issue seller you see and pat yourself on the back for a good deed well done.

Samsung Keynote E1080T   £13

If anyone is sad enough to nick your £13 Samsung Keynote we reckon you’re not going to worry about being in an “it’s the end of the world” situation.Samsung E1080T

But if someone is nasty enough to steal it, this little Samsung has a Mobile tracker’ feature that will send a message to a pre-selected number if anyone dares to stick a different SIM into it.

The low-res colour screen is a throwback to prehistoric times (eg 1999) and certainly there’s no camera, 3G or GPRS.

This is good when you’re away from conveniently-placed plugs for three days. It means you can yack away without suffering from Flat Battery Psychosis.

Sure the Keynote is not going to last the distance in your ‘normal’ exotic life on Instagram. But a never-ending battery of 17 days standby and 12 hours of yakking time, plus the inclusion of a torch, makes the dinky Keynote as important a Festival essential as painted Wellington Boots and hot pants.

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