As iPhone owners may know, it’s far from a perfect device, and its US carrier is far from perfect either. Heading out to one of the biggest celebrations of geek culture, the infamous San Diego Comic-Con, for the first time, I realized how much these issues will come to light when you’re out and about with thousands of your closest fellow geeks, nerds, otaku, et cetera. I came back with 4 important things to remember the next time I or any other iPhone owner heads out to a big trip with their iPhone in tow.

1. Phones will die. Prepare accordingly.

The iPhone is not a paragon of extensive battery life. Thankfully, the various extended life battery packs that are available can be a lifesaver for the iPhone owner. If you’re heading out to Comic-Con, picking up a couple is a very good idea, as otherwise your phone will die. Some columnists would make it a point to say “you’re hanging out with real people, enjoy their presence,” but we all know sometimes you need to check your tweets, or text someone to figure out what’s going on. Having an actual working phone is better than not having one, and a backup battery will go a long way towards preventing that from happening.

Now, you’ll want to make sure that your backup battery actually works. I had 2 batteries to help charge my iPhone, a 1900 mAh battery, and an 800 mAh battery that was small enough to carry around as a key fob. I hadn’t charged my larger capacity backup battery in months, and a few days before I left, I decided to charge it up, only to discover that I hadn’t used it in so long that it wouldn’t hold a charge. Well, no matter, I still had my 800 mAh backup battery, which charges via mini USB, and I had a mini USB wall charger that I brought along with my camera. But the fool in me failed to make sure said wall charger would work with my backup battery. I sure regretted this when I discovered it wouldn’t charge, and I had no mini USB cable with me as well, somehow. I was at the mercy of my 2 year old iPhone 3G’s stock battery. It suffered at times, to say the least.

Of course, even if you can keep your phone alive, other people’s phones won’t be so lucky. Set up times and places to meet so that if you do lose contact with them, you won’t be lost and wandering a strange city looking for people out amongst thousands and thousands of geeks.

2. Cellular data access will be spotty.

Speaking of thousands and thousands of geeks, let’s just say that trying to access the internet will often be problematic. Between spotty signal areas and people desperately trying to access whatever open wifi hotspot is available, you will often be without internet. At SDCC, there were often spots where I dropped to EDGE or lost data access entirely in and around the convention center. Amazingly, the speeds when 3G was available were not too bad, but this may be due to the fact that no one was on it because they couldn’t get access from where they most wanted to use it, like in Ballroom 20, where many popular panels were, and wifi access was reportedly spotty. And if you are an iPhone owner, stay away from the Indigo Ballroom at the Hilton Bayfront entirely. You will get no service in the room, and the wifi did not work at all. Those were the scariest 5 hours of my life being ‘stuck’ in that room attending panels I wanted to see, but could tell no one about.

3. Wifi: More reliable, but only slightly.

While cellular data services are often interrupted, there’s at least wifi available, right? Well, it depends. At the San Diego Convention Center, there were spots where the provided free wifi worked spectacularly, especially on the second floor and in certain areas of the show floor. Tweeting, checking email, and writing up reports on panels was reliable, and it worked well. But then there were times where wifi would be unavailable, or my iPad and iPhone would not connect to the networks at all. While it still trumped AT&T’s reception at times, just remember whenever you see wifi networks around that any idiot can plug in a router and get it broadcasting a connection. Getting it to work properly is a bigger challenge, and one that many people apparently aren’t set to accomplish.

Also, any network named “Free Public Wifi” isn’t going to work. Just trust me on this one.

Now, while internet access on the go may be a sticky situation, at least you have the comfort of your hotel room’s wifi, right? Well, sadly, most hotels have decided to charge you for wifi, such as the Marriott Hotel & Marina which wanted $12.95 for daily wifi access. This is where you might want to shell out for tethering, even if it’s just for one month, that $20 you spend to just use your iPhone as your internet access is well worth it, especially if you can find a way to share it with other devices besides a laptop. If you have a jailbroken iPhone, MyWi is a great alternative: it costs $19.95, but the utility of being able to use your iPhone as a wifi router can’t be overstated. Also, you could recoup your costs by loaning other people temporary access to your tethered internet connection.

4. Bring a real camera.

This especially applies to older iPhones, but bring yourself a camera that can quickly and reliably take pictures. San Diego Comic-Con especially is a place where unique picture opportunities can pop up, and you don’t want to spend half a minute trying to open up the camera on your iPhone to take a picture of Captain America fighting Blanka while you wait in line for free ice cream bars. This is a weird alternate universe where people wearing strange costumes is almost normal, where you could easily run into celebrities just wandering around, and you want to make sure you can take good footage. Your iPhone just isn’t reliable enough for that. Bring a real camera.

If you keep these tips in mind, the only thing stopping you from having an enjoyable experience at the next San Diego Comic-Con or whatever trip you take will be whatever stupid things you or other people do. And of course, it’s more opportunities to blame AT&T for making your life one huge first world problem. Take it and enjoy it, people.

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