Whenever you fly, the flight attendants will ask you to put your devices in “airplane mode”. Even if you don’t fly, airplane mode is a quick way of disabling Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and cellular service — it seems obvious how that would be crucial to the airplane’s security, due to all the communications going on and such.
However, since most airlines now offer Wi-Fi and even cellular service, do you really need to put your phone in Airplane mode?
What Exactly Does Airplane Mode Do?
Regardless of the type of device you’re using or the operating system that it’s running, most devices offer an airplane mode. Airplane mode is present in Android, iOS, Windows and MacOS, but it’s also available in other, older devices.
You’ve probably noticed that it disables communications, but to what extent? Well, here’s an article that will explain what airplane mode does:
- Wi-Fi — If you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network, enabling airplane mode will terminate the connection. At the same time, airplane mode prevents the device from scanning for nearby Wi-Fi networks, as well as any attempts to join them.
- Cellular — Airplane mode stops your device from communicating with cell towers. With airplane mode enabled you won’t be able to do anything that involves such communication, like make or receive phone calls, or send or receive text messages.
- Bluetooth — With airplane mode enabled, Bluetooth is deactivated. This means that wireless headphones, or wireless devices, like mice and keyboards, will not work when your device is in airplane mode.
- GPS — This one varies across devices. Some devices disable GPS services when in airplane mode, others keep it enabled.
You can often tell when your device is in airplane mode due to an airplane icon on your notification bar. When your device is in airplane mode, you can use it during takeoff and landing — there’s no need to turn off your device if it offers an airplane mode.
Is Airplane Mode Necessary?
A device like a cellphone is constantly communicating with cellphone towers, transmitting and receiving signals. When signal is low, the device increases its intensity, trying to reach a cellphone tower. This type of communication could theoretically interfere with the aircraft and its own communications.
Those concerns led to regulations. However, since technology is constantly improving, even if transmissions do cause problems (which isn’t confirmed they do), the aircraft is able to handle them. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t turn on airplane mode — it just means that your airplane probably won’t fall off the sky if someone forgets to turn airplane mode on.
So, even though they might not be that necessary, it is still recommended that you do. If it did cause any trouble, finding the culprit wouldn’t be too difficult and could result in a hefty fine.
Even if it didn’t, due to the altitude and speed you’re travelling, your phone would constantly be trying to reach and maintain connection with distant cellphone towers, leading to a higher battery consumption. Saving your device’s battery is also something you should have in mind.
That leads us to…
Using Airplane Mode as a Batter Saver
Like we’ve said, if you had your phone in “normal” mode while in the sky, its battery consumption would increase a lot. If airplane mode saves you battery while you’re in the sky, why wouldn’t it save you battery in every other scenario?
Your phone’s radios require a high amount of power in order to function properly. Like your cellphone’s antenna is constantly trying to communicate with cellphone towers, so is your Wi-Fi antenna constantly trying to find a Wi-Fi network it can connect to. The same goes for Bluetooth.
If you turn on airplane mode, those attempts to connect won’t happen and as a result you’ll be able to save your battery. Combine airplane mode with a decrease in your screen’s brightness and you’ll be able to make those 10% last for a way longer time than they normally would.
If you don’t want to use airplane mode because you’d still like to use Wi-Fi, then you should know that you can still choose to enable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth while in airplane mode. So, if you’re really trying to make your battery last, airplane mode is a good way to do so.
Petr is a serial tech entrepreneur and the CEO of Apro Software, a machine learning company. Whenever he’s not blogging about technology for itechgyan.com or softwarebattle.com, Petr enjoys playing sports and going to the movies. He’s also deeply interested about mediation, Buddhism and biohacking.