What is Airplane Mode? How it Works and When to Use it

What is Airplane Mode? Allow us to explain. Smartphones, cell phones, and most other mobile devices are equipped with a setting called Airplane mode, sometimes known as Flight Mode. It’s designed to turn off all the Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, cellular, and data connections on your mobile device, which might hamper the various sensors and equipment found on commercial airplanes. If you’ve ever placed your smartphone next to a speaker and heard a loud buzzing or another strange interference sound, then you’ll understand why Airplane Mode exists.

We have a guide on how to turn on Airplane Mode for both Android phones and iPhones, but it’s generally easy to implement — just look for an airplane icon and tap it. You should always see an airplane icon in your notification bar at the top of your screen when you have Airplane Mode switched on. Typically, you’ll be prompted to turn it on after boarding a flight, directly before your plane takes off.

There are sometimes slight differences between devices in what Airplane Mode does, but the main thing it always does is disconnect your cellular voice and data connection. If you turn on Airplane Mode on an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Apple Watch, it will also disable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

With Airplane Mode turned on, you’ll still be able to use some apps and games, take photos with your camera, and play both videos and music stored locally on your device.

Using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi

In 2013, the United States Federal Aviation Administration updated its guidelines to allow for the expanded use of personal electronics. This means that you can always use Bluetooth, which is short-range, on a flight to connect to devices like headphones. It also means that you can use Wi-Fi on flights, assuming it’s equipped on the plane.

Thankfully, you can turn Bluetooth and Wi-Fi back on without exiting Airplane Mode. To do so, tap the relevant icon in your notification shade by swiping down from the top on an Android device or swiping up from the bottom to access the Control Center on an iOS device.

However, the precise rules may vary depending on the aircraft, airline, or the country you’re in. If in doubt, ask before you turn any connections on.

Other uses for Airplane Mode

Now you know what Airplane Mode is, we thought it was worth mentioning that it can come in handy for a few other situations besides flights. If you’re having trouble with connections on your phone and you’re struggling to get a signal, it’s sometimes helpful to turn Airplane Mode on and off again.

The feature also works well when you don’t want to be disturbed — turn Airplane Mode on before bed and your phone won’t wake you with an incoming text or email (alarms still work). When you want to extend the battery life on your phone, Airplane Mode is also a good way to do it, as long as you aren’t waiting for a call or message. Check out our iPhone battery tips for more ideas. You should also find that your phone charges a bit quicker if you turn Airplane Mode on while it’s charging.

Another nice thing about Airplane Mode is that it stops your phone from emitting radiation (seeing as how it stops it from emitting cell phone signals). Of course, the vast majority of phones emit only a small amount of radiofrequency (RF) energy radiation, but if you don’t need to be connected to your cell network, it’s worth turning on Airplane Mode just to be ultra-safe.

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