Recently, I overheard a conversation between a middle aged woman and her elderly mother:
“Mom, put your phone in airplane mode.”
“Oh, so I can use it on the airplane?”
Well, not exactly. I giggled, but it occurred to me that not everyone may know what airplane mode does – or even that there is an airplane mode – or that it can be used to your advantage, even when you’re not on a plane.
What does airplane mode do?
Basically, it turns off all of the radios in your mobile phone. Anything that can send or receive a signal – cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS – are all turned off, ostensibly so as not to interfere with the airplane’s navigational instruments. That means no phone calls, no text messaging, no GPS tracking, and no internet. (Gasp!)
Do I have to keep them turned off?
No, you can actually turn many of them back on. In fact, with recent changes in regulations, you don’t have to keep your phone in Airplane Mode any longer on many airlines. Still, you can turn different functions on without exiting Airplane Mode, so you can use your Bluetooth headphones or in-flight Wi-Fi, for example.
What else is Airplane Mode good for?
Turning off your phone’s services can actually be helpful in some circumstances:
- Save money when traveling internationally: Putting your phone in Airplane Mode disables its cellular reception, both voice and data, so you won’t accidentally roam on another network. You can turn Wi-Fi back on to take advantage of free Wi-Fi hotspots.
- Save your data: Just because you’re not using any apps does not mean your phone is not using your data! There are many apps and services that operate in the background, nibbling away at your data plan byte by byte. No network access (Airplane Mode) means no data consumption. This can be particularly helpful if you are close to your data plan’s limit or, as mentioned, traveling abroad.
- Save your battery: When those apps are running in the background, they are also using up your battery. Your phone is also constantly communicating with nearby radio towers, Wi-Fi access points, and GPS satellites. All of this activity is draining your battery. Putting your phone in Airplane Mode turns all of these off, saving your battery. (You can stretch your battery time more by turning off notifications and dimming the screen.)
- Charge faster: When your battery is running low, you can actually charge it up faster in Airplane Mode. That’s because many of those things eating up your battery are turned off, so they can’t divert the incoming energy. This can be especially important if you are charging up from a back-up battery or have limited time.
What does Airplane Mode not do?
Without messaging, calling or internet, what good is a smartphone? Obviously, there is a lot more we do with our phones. It’s our camera, Kindle, music player, DVD player, and game console all rolled into one. Airplane Mode does not affect these functions, so long as you have downloaded your movies, music, books, games and app data before turning it on. (For apps, look in the settings menu for an off-line mode, or an option to download.)
Sadly, it also does not turn your phone into an airplane. Yet.
Have you tried this trick to save on battery or manage your data? We’d love to hear how you travel with technology. You can share your story in the Comments!