What Is Airplane Mode? How It Works, and Is It Necessary?

If you own a mobile phone you must be familiar with that little airplane icon that put your device on Airplane Mode. But what is Airplane Mode, exactly? What does it do?

The Airplane Mode is a common feature in the world of mobile phones. Almost every mobile phone in today’s world has this function. Read on as we discuss, at length, all you need to know about Airplane Mode. 

What Is Airplane Mode?

The Airplane Mode is a feature on your mobile device, that, when activated, turns off all the wireless functions of such a device. It is designed to make devices safe for use on planes.

Hence, the name Airplane mode. If these radio functions are on, they will emit electromagnetic inference that could prevent the proper functioning of the flight. 

You can still use your phone to do things that don’t require a radio signal or internet.

What Does Airplane Mode Do?

what is airplane mode
Screenshot: Herby Jasmin/Gotechtor

Once you turn on Airplane Mode on your smartphone, functions like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, data connection, and cellular voice connection will be turned off until you switch off the Airplane Mode. What are these functions, and what do they do? Let’s find out below:

  • Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi is a connection module that allows your device to connect to wireless internet, routers, or networks around you.
  • Cellular: The cellular service that allows your device to access a mobile network, both for calling and data connection.  
  • Bluetooth: This is another wireless function that facilitates connectivity between your device and other devices around you, including another device, a computer, or peripherals. 
  • GPS: This smartphone feature is an advanced system that helps to determine your exact location, speed of travel, and elevation using satellites orbiting the planet. 

You cannot use any of these features once your device is on Airplane Mode. 

Why Do You Need Airplane Mode?

If you are the type that gets on planes frequently, then you will have heard flight attendants asking you and other passengers on the plane to turn off your electronic devices completely or put them on Airplane Mode.

So, do you have to keep your phone on Airplane Mode the entire flight? Probably not. Allow us to explain.

Cellphones are known to emit electromagnetic signals due to the components inside them. If these signals are transmitted while a plane is in flight, it can lead to audible interference on the radios of the aircraft.

When this happens, there is a block in radio frequency for a couple of seconds, during which the pilots and the air traffic control cannot communicate effectively. 

Turning Airplane Mode off will ensure that the pilots do not have a hard time navigating the plane, and getting you to your destination safely. Summarily, smartphones that are not on Airplane Mode prevent the proper functioning of the plane. 

But the real reason why you have to put your phone on Airplane Mode on flights is because of federal regulations.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules prohibit the use of cell phones on planes in order to “protect against radio interference to cell phone networks on the ground.”

What Is Airplane Mode Used For?

Airplane Mode is used for a couple of things other than ensuring your safety and the proper functioning of the plane while in flight. What are these things? Let’s find out below.

1. Save Battery Life

Wireless and radio connection expends most of the battery juice on any smartphone. So, when the phone is on Airplane Mode, it means less battery juice is used up. So, the battery can last longer. 

When you’re out of signal range, your phone will constantly try to connect to the nearest cell tower. This will significantly drain your phone battery.

So whenever you’re in this type of situation, turning Airplane Mode on extends the battery life on your phone. For more in-depth coverage, check out our iPhone battery tips and our Android battery tips.

2. Stay Focused (Avoiding Distractions)

Without Airplane Mode turned on, your phone can send and receive texts and phone calls. You can also surf the internet and keep in touch with your friends on instant messaging platforms.

These may distract you from focusing on the tasks at hand. However, putting your phone on Airplane Mode can save you from these distractions. 

3. Speed Up Charging

Everyone wants their phone to charge up really fast. One way to achieve this is to turn on the Airplane Mode. This puts off the wireless and radio functions, thus helping the phone to charge faster. 

4. Travel

Airplane Mode is compulsory if you are flying. Most planes will have issues flying correctly if passengers fail to put their phones on Airplane Mode.

However, you can put your smartphone on Airplane Mode while traveling via other means of transportation to avoid distractions from calls, texts, and chats. 

5. Other Personal Uses

Some smartphone users want their devices on Airplane Mode for different personal reasons, including:

  • Resetting their wireless connection to fix inconsistencies: Toggling the Airplane Mode works just like restarting the device. While the latter takes time, you can turn your Airplane Mode off and on in seconds. It’s also a great way to fix Wi-Fi calling not working on your phone.
  • Securing their devices: You can keep your phones from the prying eyes of an intruder or thief by making it impossible to track and ensuring that it doesn’t ring out as a result of a call or text notification.
  • Living the moment: It is difficult for some smartphone users to stay committed to a chat or be in the moment when their devices are active. However, putting their phones on Airplane Mode helps them to enjoy what they are doing. 
  • Avoiding disturbance: If you want good quality time to yourself, putting your phone on Airplane Mode will mean you have one less thing to worry about while you relax. 

Is Airplane Mode Really Necessary?

Most countries of the world frown at the use of devices capable of transmitting signals, when you are on a commercial flight.

If you have a smartphone or a tablet with cellular functionality, chances are they will be linked to multiple cell towers at all times, in an attempt to stay connected.

The farther these towers, the more intensive the search. In such situations, the device will increase its signal strength to remain linked to these towers.

If this persists, the search may be extended to the dedicated sensors on the airplane. This forces the sensitive navigation equipment to malfunction. 

However, it is essential to note that such malfunctioning is not serious enough to send your plane off the sky. But the consistent interference in the cellular signals exchange between the airplane crew and the people on the ground may make navigation somewhat more complicated. 

This, alongside other uses of the airplane mode described above, shows that Airplane Mode is indeed a necessary feature on smartphones.

Think of a smartphone feature that increases concentration, makes charging faster, extends battery life, and keeps you focused for longer, think of the Airplane Mode. 


This article should hopefully help clear up any confusion about what Airplane Mode is, what it does and when it should be used.

Hopefully, the next time you travel, you will have a better understanding of why Airplane Mode exists and when to use it.

As you’ve learned in this guide, Airplane Mode is intended for use during aircraft flights. However, it can be used in other areas where cellular interference might occur, such as inside hospitals or near high-tension wires.

If you’re in a situation where using your smartphone might interfere with anything electronic, or could prevent you from making an emergency call, it’s probably a good idea to enable Airplane Mode.

If you have any comments, concerns, or suggestions, please use the comment form below.

Herby has a healthy obsession with all things technology, especially with smartphones. He loves to rip things apart to see how they work.

Leave a Comment

Welcome to our community. We invite you to join our discussion. Please keep in mind that all comments are moderated according to our comment policy, and your email address will NOT be published nor shared.