Coming soon: the Fearne Cotton app

Steve Dinneen
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Festivals ain’t what they used to be. Back in the day, your parents would smear their naked bodies with healing mud and take so much acid their eyes melted. Now, in a resounding victory for progress, people can huddle in their tents, feverishly watching the events on the blinking screen of an iPhone.

Even in a muddy field in the middle of god-knows-where, mobile technology is doing away life’s mundane irritations, such as decision making and independent thought.

The new wave of festival apps are a stroke of genius, to be held alongside the wheel and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Orange designed one for Glastonbury and Vodafone did something similar for the Isle of Wight and last weekend’s Wireless in Hyde Park. The free downloads show you exactly what time and on which stage all the acts are playing, meaning you don’t have to pay £6 for a programme that is prone to disintegrating in the rain. You can then choose who you want to watch and put them in a personalised schedule, along with a reminder of when you have to set off to see them. But the best part is, you can then open up a map of the site, which uses GPS to tell you exactly where you’re standing and which direction you should go in. All that’s missing are giant arrows showing you exactly where you can find your arse and your elbow.

After using them for five minutes, it makes you wonder how people survived at festivals before apps were invented. Presumably they just wandered mindlessly from field to field for five days, weeping quietly into their falafels.

By the next Glastonbury in 2013, I’m hoping for an app that’s hard-wired into the mind of Fearne Cotton, akin to the experiment where scientists removed the top of a cat’s skull and attached electrodes to its brain, so we can watch the backstage area through her cold, dead eyes. By then the festival will be renamed App-stonbury. It will be the best weekend ever.

Of course, these apps rely on keeping your phone charged. Enter Orange with its t-shirt that converts sound into electricity. Using the same technology as a speaker but in reverse, it absorbs vibrations through a silver panel on the wearer’s stomach (which makes them look a bit like a sad Teletubby). In 2010, Orange showcased a pair of wellies that convert the energy you use wading through mud into electricity. This strikes me as a better idea, although I didn’t spot a single person wearing them this year, which is the festival equivalent of leaving without any money in the Dragon’s Den.

Not to be outdone by the milling ant colony of asinine festival-goers operating several intellectual and spiritual leagues below him, Bono literally spoke to a spaceman during his Glastonbury set. Read that sentence back. Say it out loud. He cut to a live link-up with a space station, where a real life astronaut quoted David Bowie lyrics at him. If I hadn’t watched it later on telly, I’d probably have assumed I’d dreamt it. For his next trick I would like to see Bono play the first ever set on the moon, hooked into a computer that will cut his oxygen supply if he plays anything from after 1987.

All of this upsets the purists, who think festivals should consist of three hippies dancing around a bonfire with a kazoo. Probably. I wouldn’t know. I didn’t speak to any of them. I was too busy looking at my phone. Technology is the future of festivals. If you don’t like it, start another one. Have it in your back garden. Nobody will want to go anyway.

HP TouchPad (£399)
HP’s new Web OS tablet finally launched this week. You’ll probably have realised this already after seeing the non-existant queues of people who camped outside Dixons waiting to get their hands on one. If this was the first tablet to launch it would be something pleasant enough, the gadget equivalent of a nice cup of tea. But, in case you haven’t noticed, there are a few tablets out there already. And most of them are better than this. Even if you hate Apple, you’d be wiser picking up a Galaxy Tab or a Motorola Xoom running Android.

Logitech Wireless Keyboard (£50)
Logitech’s wireless keyboard looks like a giant version of one of the calculators you used to take to school as a kid. It looks vast on your desk, with big, bulbous black keys (although it is pleasingly thin). The firm says that once charged, its battery can last for up to three months, which is useful for all the typing in the dark you get up to. It’s a smart enough piece of kit but something about the feel of the keys make it seem cheap – which it’s not. Annoyingly it doesn’t work with Macs.