Why Does Airplane Mode Exist on Cellphones?

One of the unmistakable hallmarks of the digital age is the existence of airplane mode. You’ll find airplane mode on just about all your digital devices, from phones to tablets to laptops, and you’ll know what it’s for when you get on a plane and the flight attendant announces that all phones must be put into the aforementioned mode or turned off. Why does airplane mode exist, though? What are the benefits of putting a phone on airplane mode, and is airplane mode necessary on planes anymore?

Why Do Phones Have Airplane Mode?

When you put your phone on airplane mode, you are able to access most of the features that do not involve getting a cellular or wireless signal to the phone. The idea is to prevent cellular signals from interfering with the plane’s own sensors and navigation systems. But, is airplane mode really safer than using your phone normally while taking off/landing or in-flight? Here’s the truth about airplane mode.

You Don’t Have to Use Airplane Mode, but You Should

Today’s commercial airplane equipment is sophisticated enough that even multiple cell phones trying to catch a signal mid-flight won’t create more than a minor nuisance for those navigating the aircraft. However, you should go into airplane mode as a courtesy for a number of reasons.

First, because the flight attendants asked you to, and they’re doing their best to make sure the flight is pleasant and agreeable for everybody. Second, because you’re unlikely to get a useful signal up there anyway. Third, your efforts to get a signal could quickly kill your phone’s battery life, as your cell signal jumps from tower to tower trying to connect while your plane speeds along. Finally, why cause even a minor inconvenience to the flight crew? It’s unlikely you’d receive any benefit from searching for a signal mid-flight and airplane mode helps save your battery. It’s designed to shut off a lot of non-essential, battery-draining operations you might not need or be able to use up there anyway.

Will We Need Airplane Mode in the Future?

Even now, many airlines offer in-flight Wi-Fi that you can re-enable after you put the phone in airplane mode, so even if you have to use airplane mode, you might not even notice it. However, airplanes in the future may come equipped with what are called picocells, which are basically mini cellular stations that cell phones can use to safely connect to communications satellites and cellular networks.

Widespread use of these devices won’t be the end of airplane mode, however, as you’ll still need to keep those cell signals muted during takeoff and landing. Don’t forget: Even if you’re not on a plane, airplane mode is a great, quick and easy way to save some battery life if you want to stretch out your juice without going into power-saving mode.

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