FAQ: What Does Airplane Mode Do?


Unless you’re a frequent flyer, airplane mode is probably one of those things that you never really think about. It was introduced when smartphones began to become more prolific, as a way of ensuring that cellular equipment didn’t interfere with the flight apparatuses. But, what most people don’t realize is that airplane mode can be useful for more than just flying.

What does airplane mode do?

Airplane mode basically disables all signals coming to and from your device. Turning on airplane mode disables the following hardware:
  • Wifi – The phone will stop scanning for and attempting to connect to Wifi networks. This feature can actually be turned back on after airplane mode is enabled so that users can connect to in-flight Wifi, where available.
  • Bluetooth – Your phone will stop searching for other Bluetooth signals and will lose connection to any Bluetooth devices including headsets and speakers.
  • GPS (sometimes) – Older phones will turn GPS off as well, but some newer devices do not as GPS use does not require the phone to transmit any signals and therefore will not interfere with anything on the plane. Some aircraft regulations prohibit the use of GPS on airplanes, however, so you’ll need to check your device and possibly turn this off manually.
  • Cellular Signal – This is the biggest part of airplane mode and will prevent your phone from sending or receiving any cellular data or signal. This means you won’t be able to make or receive calls or texts and won’t be able to use data unless connected to Wifi.
Whenever airplane mode is enabled there will be an airplane image in your phone’s notification bar in place of the the signal indicator.

What else can I use it for?

Obviously airplane mode is designed for use in airplanes. I probably don’t even need to explain that. However, airplane mode is good for more than just that. In fact, one of the more common uses for airplane mode is to help with battery life. For the most part, when airplane mode is enabled your device will have battery-draining background functions completely shut off (with the occasional exception of GPS). You can take advantage of this when your phone battery is low but you don’t want to risk shutting it down, as turning on airplane mode will increase your battery life slightly. It is also a good way to avoid distractions without completely limiting the functionality of your device. You’ll still be able to access some apps, the camera, photos, or notes you might have on your phone. Your phone will also charge slightly faster on airplane mode; although how much faster will depend on the device. Airplane mode is also useful if you’re simply using your phone as an ereader or don’t want to waste battery life in areas where you know you’ll have no signal anyway. Do keep in mind that while airplane mode is on, you won’t be able to make or receive any calls or texts. In fact, you won’t even get notifications until the phone reconnects once the mode is flipped off, so there are definitely some limitations. However, in the right settings it can certainly be useful.]]>

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  1. Bob on October 20, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    GPS does require communication with satellites, so I’m confused by that comment about not needing to transmit signals.

    • Liz E. on October 21, 2015 at 2:13 pm

      Phone GPS is a little complicated as it uses both GPS satellites and cellular towers most of the time. And while you’re right, it does rely on communication with satellites, all your phone is doing where those satellites are concerned is receiving the information and decoding it to determine location. The phone itself is not sending any signals to the GPS satellite at all. So as I understand it, your phone does not need to transmit any signals related to GPS which would have any effect on planes. Hope that helps! Thanks for commenting, Bob!!

  2. Overstappen on October 22, 2015 at 9:34 am

    Thanks for sharing, The last time that i had my airplane mode on i noticed that i can turn on my wi-fi signal and that’s really good ofcourse. But what i want to know is since when ? with new model phones or since the beginning of airplane mode ? did they change it later or was it always like that ?

  3. Neil on November 15, 2015 at 6:08 pm

    When are you coming back???

  4. Energie on January 14, 2016 at 9:02 am

    I activate airplane mode when I go to bed. To much WhatsApp groups, even several international ones. It wakes me up so when I put it on airplane mode I can still have my alarm on, but won’t get messages.