Android Airplane modeNow that we've got music, games, videos and photos on our phones, we're definitely going to want to have access to our phones while traveling, right? But if you're even going to think about using your phone on an airplane, you're going to need the aptly named "Airplane mode." It shuts down the phone's radios so that it won't interfere with any of the airplane's systems.

To activate airplane mode, hold down the power button and tap the appropriate button. Or, your phone may have an airplane mode widget, like you see above. You'll still need to follow crew members' instructions during takeoff and landing, however, and we wouldn't recommend fighting back with "But, it's in airplane mode!"

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There are 49 comments

kadield says:

I tried telling the stewardess on my last flight that it was in airplane mode and wouldn't cause any issues.

Yeah, she didn't care and wasn't really amused with my sass.

arundc says:

I've never had an issue on International flights...I tell them my phone's on Airplane mode and they know what it means unlike some flights in the US. As for the latter, I really don't care anymore...turning on/off the Moto X now will be a snap :-).

arundc says:

I've never had an issue on International flights...I tell them my phone's on Airplane mode and they know what it means unlike some flights in the US. As for the latter, I really don't care anymore...turning on/off the Moto X now will be a snap :-).

Sodders says:

Last flight I went on, the stewardess told everyone to turn off all cell phones/radios, etc etc. She even said "Even if your phone has an airplane mode, please do not use this and turn off the phone completely."

Really? REALLY?

oscarahj says:

I think, for the most part, they have you do this mainly because some people will SAY their in airplane mode when they're really not. Darn it, you bad eggs. You always have to ruin it for everyone.

icebike says:

No, for the most part they have to do this because it is the LAW.
Its always been this way. Off means off.

There has never been a single documented case of cell phones messing up airplane controls. (Or igniting gas fumes at a fuel pump).

Never the less the regulations are on the books and you have to comply.

ilaifire says:

No, I would argue it's because they don't feel like thinking too hard. How many people are using laptops, notebooks, netbooks, iPads and iPod touches without a problem from any flight attendants? How many of these devices have radios? The problem is most of the attendants only do their job in respect to this to the level of "Oh no!! It's a phone!!!" and don't think much past that.
Granted I'm the ass who will point this out to the flight attendant and demand that if they won't let me use my toys in a safe manner, no one else should be allowed either. Then hope that either A) they ignore me in which case I will be able to argue a lawsuit of discrimination, or B) they aren't capable of enforcing everyone not use a single electronic device and just allow everyone to do so.

icebike says:

Your pet theories not withstanding, the reason you are told to turn them OFF is because it is the LAW.

icebike says:

Yes, REALLY?

Was that the first time you flew anywhere country boy?

How can any intelligent adult (assuming you are an adult) be unaware that this has been the law since the 60s?

jk says:

Since the 60s? I dont believe that handheld mobile phones were even available in the 60s.

Cell phones were banned in airlines by the FCC in 1991.

http://www.zdnet.com/news/airlines-ban-cell-phones-but-why/95986

Sodders says:

I think you missed the point I was getting at. I was talking about the AIRPLANE MODE and how they say "NO" to using THAT.

allen099 says:

What's the big deal? Just turn the screen off while the flight attendants are passing by and they won't say anything. If they question you, say it's off and poke the screen and say "see?" End of story.

But when you get a notification, the cat is out of the bag.

The big deal is that if you don't listen to them, the FAA can give you a 10,000 fine (USD). Not a good way to start your trip.

Colin says:

I wonder if there's ever actually BEEN a documented case of a cell phone interfering with flight systems.

icebike says:

No.

Cell phones off is a FCC regulation, not an FAA regulation.

Cell tower systems were never designed with the idea that one phone could light up a thousand cell towers and ask to roam onto each of them. Tower roaming was designed to work between 3 to 5 towers at a time, and only in a local area, between a few closely located carriers.

At 30 thousand feet, (6 miles, well within cell phone range) your phone can see way too many towers. It gets busy logging into dozens of them (at a minimum) and latches onto the strongest 4 or 15 or 20, and the hand offs are fast. It overwhelms the cell hand-off logic.

In Plane micro cells are coming. These do two things:

1) By being very close, the force your phone to the lowest transmission power setting, so the towers on the ground won't even see you. 2)They also appear as the strongest tower(s), so your phone won't even look for any others.

k2ldc10 says:

Just returned from a trip to Philadelphia and had no problems on either flight. On the flight there it was interesting to see all the different electronic devices in use on my walk to the rear of the plane. No less than eight iPads in use. I did not see any other EVO users other than me.

icebike says:

So what's your point? First time flyer?

Its been this way since the 70s.

jk says:

or perhaps the 90s

k2ldc10 says:

I should have said... "I had no problems while using my phone. I was sitting in an aisle seat using it in airplane mode and was not asked by a flight attendant to turn it off."

Incidentally, the plane (US Airways) was equipped with go go in-flight and they advertise that you can connect using a laptop or smartphone via WiFi.

I believe they proved on Mythbusters that cockpits are shielded enough that transmitted radio signals from cellular phones cannot effect the instruments in the cockpit.

yeah, I remember that episode. I turn it off anyways. There's more than enough to keep me entertained with the in-flight movie system, and magazines.

Jonneh says:

On my 12-14 hour flight to Japan, I had a beautiful Japanese lady give me a hot handjob for about an hour, that was a good way to pass the time too.

AndroidOne says:

That being so, there is no federal law or regulation to my knowledge that requires a rating of "Plausible" or better from the Mythbusters for it to be enforcable. So, until then you will be required to turn off your cell phone during flight.

Cellmate#AC says:

Thanks for that info as I get into so many arguments with people as to why this rule is in play. I have also found that by checking with the flight attendant before you sit down is different from them finding you in your seat with your cell turned on (even if its in Airplane Mode). I was recently on a flight to Miami from Dallas (AA) and asked the attendant if I could ask the Pilot a question, she said sure. So in front of her I asked the Pilot if I could watch my trip on a map using GPS he said yes he had GPS, but also said if the attendants tell you to turn it off then you got to do it. Now since the bathroom Bomber things may be a little different.

I'm calling bullshit on mythbusters and you for citing mythbusters as a source, by the way. They don't shield cockpits. It's useless. I've been an airline pilot for nearly a decade and a personal pilot for twice as long. We know when cell phone radios are on. Ever have a phone ring next to your computer speakers? We hear that ALL THE TIME because everyone's phone is out looking for signal at 30,000 feet - which you won't find. Not going to happen. Remember, the aircraft antennae are not in the cockpit. They're mounted around the cabin.

Look, I'm fine with airplane mode. I get that, but the regs are the regs. Don't believe me? 14 CFR Part 91.21. Google it. Better yet, feel lucky. Ecfr is the first result.

The issue isn't about bring down an airplane. I doubt a screaming toddler in the back seat is the direct result of a car accident, but it sure is annoying and pointless. It adds stress that doesn't need to be there. It's a distraction that shouldn't exist.

Honestly, can people be any more disrespectful? Remember, we have the authority to kick you off the plane and a Captain I used to fly with has exercised that authority a couple times on people who wouldn't turn off their phones before we left the gate.

Let's make it simple - unless you have a couple thousand hours of operating large aircraft, you don't have a valid point to stand on in this conversation.

EDIT: And I'd like to add that it's worse during takeoff and landing because now all the phones are picking up signal and syncing. It's horrid. Sure, the most critical phase of flight. Let's distract the only people qualified to operate this aircraft even more. Christ, we're not even allowed to discuss anything below 10,000 feet that is not directly related to the flight and you think you're allowed to use your phone??

Sorry about the hard words, but this drives every pilot I know nuts and all of John Q. Public thinks they know what they're talking about. YOU DON'T. Accept it and turn the damn thing off.

I don't take what Mythbusters says as the gospel just for the record/clarification. I was just adding something I thought was relevant. Apparently it wasn't.

I've never heard another side of the argument before nor did I even realize there was one. Honestly, thank you for enlightening me, I don't like citing incorrect information, but with that being said...

I sense a lot of rage, may I suggest a relaxing spa treatment and a scotch? Not while in flight of course.

Brainerd says:

Some of the rules do get a little crazy. However, during take-off and landing some of the "rules" are make to keep you alert, not distracted, and to see that heavy objects are stowed so that they don't become a dangerous projectile during a "rough moment" during TandL.

The radio interference is bunk. I wish they would just say the real reasons. To remain alert and to stow potentially deadly projectiles.

Fertie says:

This thread is a lot of fun, but I have to ask the important question: What's that widget??

myriad46 says:

How dare you try to stay on topic!!!! All electronics off until 10,000, then phones can be on in airplane mode. Hope you selected it before you turned it off, though.

arfnarfsi#CB says:

I agree, can someone identify these widgets? They look great!

BTW, I think anytime there is a picture of a screen with an app or widgets, the barcodes of all apps on the screen should be provided.

Insp_Gadget says:

Although you do have the occasional flight attendant that either doesn't understand the technology or misinterprets the regulations regarding cellphone usage, you still have to follow their instructions during the flight.

On the many flights that I have been on, I have never had a problem with the rules. Basically, you are not allowed to use any electronic devices during takeoff and landing. Electronic devices may be used once the airplane is at cruising altitude as long as the devices don't emit any radio frequencies (all radios off--cellular, bluetooth, WiFi, etc.--i.e. Airplane Mode). Some of the more forward-thinking airlines now have WiFi service.

The problem is that until recently, many of the airlines' rules had not caught up with technology and the fact that cellphones are now SMARTPHONES and capable of more than just calls. So we had a lot of flight attendants telling people that they couldn't use the "phone" at all. To them, it was a phone and nothing more. The sight of it meant you were trying to talk on it, and therefore they wanted you to turn it off and put it away. That seems silly now, but that's what happens when people/organizations don't keep up with the times/technology.

gbhil#AC says:

Just waiting for the day when lawsuit crazy America forces a pop-up informing users that Airplane mode does not grant the ability to fly.

The only problem I have with the phone's airplane mode has been that it also turns off the WiFi antenna. Since my laptop died, when I fly I have used my phone for internet access on planes. But Android's airplane mode turns off the WiFi antenna as well. And when I fly on planes with WiFi, I have to turn airplane mode OFF to use the wifi.

This is a major pain. Especially since I can still text through WiFi on my Google Voice app (which means when I get a new laptop I would still use the WiFi on my phone to text if I need to).

mggm100 says:

Yes, when you turn Airplane Mode on, it turns wi-fi off.

BUT, you are able to turn it back on through the wi-fi widget or settings/wireless and networks/wi-fi.

Not on my G1 when I tried it, nor on my Nexus One when I flew with it (April, on 2.1). It look like on 2.2 it does, as I just checked. But on 2.1 and previous, the turn on WiFi part of the wireless and networks settings of the phone did NOT turn the WiFi on. In fact, it was grayed out.

It looks like it will now work, which is good for when I fly next. But as recently as early April, it did not. At that point, all I care about is being able to text if I need to, provided I have a new laptop by then.

mggm100 says:

I'm not familiar with anything but the Evo, my first Android phone.

Wi-fi worked with airplane mode through the 2nd half of July on 2.1 (on the Evo) when I did some traveling. (I don't think there's any CDMA in England, but I wasn't sure, so I kept airplane mode on just in case.)

It might have just been stock Android (which my Nexus One is). The EVO uses HTC Sense, so it is possible HTC made it so that the Sense phones could turn on WiFi while in airplane mode. But, like I said, my Nexus One was able to do it when I just checked, and it is running 2.2. So, for me, going forward it will be a non-issue.

Sense is a homescreen skin and set of programs. It's not an overhaul of the kernel. Won't have an affect.

rhart00 says:

On a side note....
What airplane mode/power widget is that shown in the picture? It looks pretty nice

voghan says:

Unbelievable, turn your phone off before take off and landing, just like your mp3 player or laptop. Once they say its safe to turn on your electric devices you can turn on your phone running in airplane mode. Not that tough.

gabrielzorz says:

I secretly fly with my phone totally on, all the time! I've even been on a call while taking off just to see at what altitude reception cuts off. There is no way the FCC would certify any type of airplane instrument that can be interfered with by something as minuscule as a dumb cell phone. It's never happened either, and as a matter of fact, Mythbusters also tried it on one episode and the conclusion was that cell phones don't cause any interference to airplane instruments. Even the pilot of the airplane they were testing on acknowledged that the chance of that happening is virtually 0, and even if it did, commercial airplanes are required to have redundant instrumentation. So there you go dumb asses, keep your phones off.

newboyx says:

Or you could just buy a Samsung Moment. It automatically does airplane mode for you.

DroidGnome says:

Actually I don't consider my Evo 4G a "Cell phone".. I own a Mobile computing device, and there aren't any laws against those that I'm aware of. I will of course comply with FCC regulations asking to turn off all cellular devices, which does in fact happen when you turn on airplane mode, it disables the cellular & wifi systems, so I believe that actually is in compliance.

The only wrinkle would be if the FCC designates our new devices as 'cell phones' as a whole and not just the celluar antenna system in the device.

Does anyone know if the FCC has an actual classification of "Cell Phone" somewhere? I-Pads with 3G or even a laptop cellular card are probably not covered under the law either.

allen099 says:

As long as all the radios are off, we're good to go. Nothing else transmits a signal in these phones.

unfitguy says:

Anyone establish what widget that is? Looks cool. Whilst flying I'm off the better safe than sorry group :-)

gcims says:

Widgets are motorola droid x specific. Much like the power control bar for android but you can pick and choose individual buttons.

todmonsta says:

Never mind. . .I should learn to read

AndroidOne says:

I have to say I am amazed and disappointed at the collective stupidity and arrogance of some people here. I am a former military and long time commercial/private pilot; I have not experienced any substantial interference or noise problems as reported by the other pilot posting above on my years of service.

However I do agree with him, turning off and keeping off the cell phones during flight as instructed by the ANY crew member IS THE CURRENT RULE and until is changed or ammended you are COMPELLED to adhere by it... period. The debate over whether there is any validity to cell phone interference of com/nav equipment is irrelevant once you get on board a commercial airplane; you have to turn off your cell phone during airplane operations as instructed by the crew... PERIOD.

And he is right, as Captain and PIC of any commercial flight you are afforded broad discretion to deal with any passenger that willfully refuse to comply with this or any other lawful directive from the flight crew. I have never been in need to use this authority but it has been successfuly used by other pilots I know. And if you plan to sue the Captain after being removed for failing to comply with FAA/FCC regulations, good luck on that one!