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Airplane Mode What is Airplane Mode on a Cell Phone?

What is Airplane Mode on a Cell Phone?

What is Airplane Mode?
There are a number of reasons you should place your cell phone in airplane mode while in flight.

A cell phone that is in flight and is not placed in airplane mode, will attempt to connect to cellular towers. As the  airplane is in transit and  flies by cell towers it will constantly attempt to connect to the closest one, but the plane's altitude and speed will do little more than drain your battery.

A cell phone's "airplane mode" disables the cellular phone signal, wi-fi, it can also often disable GPS (location services) and the bluetooth. Basically the phone's "airplane mode" disables all of the cell phone's wireless transmission functions.

All cellular connection and data connections are discontinued in airplane mode. When a cell phone is in airplane mode, nothing can be transmitted using cellular data. That means you can not place voice calls that use the cellular signal and you cannot send text messages using the cell signal. You may however be able to place voice calls using VOIP voice over IP, if you turn the wireless connection back on and connect to the in-flight wi-fi connection. VOIP phone calls while in flight are currently prohibited in US air space but they may be allowed in International air space.

In-flight Wi-Fi
Airplane mode turns off the portable devices' ability to send and receive wireless data. While Airplane Mode turns off Wi-Fi off by default, you are able to turn it back on to connect to the the airplane's in-plane wireless system. An airplane's in-flight wi-fi is satellite-based and does not rely on a cellular connection.

The steps to turn the wi-fi on when a phone is in airplane mode:

  1. Place Cell Phone in Airplane Mode
  2. Keep Airplane Mode On and Turn Wireless Back On
  3. Connect to the Airplane's Wireless System

Similar to wi-fi you can also turn on blue-tooth while a phone is in airplane mode. Bluetooth will allow you to use noise cancelling headphones a keyboard or similar bluetooth  connections.

GPS/Location Services
GPS does not transmit any radio waves, so depending on your cell phone, airplane mode may or may not not turn off the GPS.  Unless you have a compelling reason, while in transit you may wish to leave the GPS/Location services off, as it will drain your battery.

Most airlines require cellphones and portable electronics to be placed in airplane mode while in flight. They request this because the concern is that the cell phone signals may cause interference with the airplane's in-flight navigation system. 

There are other perks to placing the cell phone in airplane mode, the primary one being that it preserves the life of the battery. The cell phone will also charge faster when it is in airplane mode, this can be useful when traveling. Of course, if you are unsure about airplane mode or do not require the phone while in flight you can also turn the phone or device off. The cell phone or portable electronic device will not communicate with cell towers when it is turned off. 

Article Date: June 8, 2020


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