The Airplane Mode is found in nearly every smartphone in the world, a lot of us commonly use it to instantly block cellular and social media notifications so we can focus on other things. Though it does seem unnecessary given the fact that nearly all smartphones have a ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode. Hence we can say that the mode is for when we travel on an airplane. But why is it so necessary? Will an iPhone really disrupt an entire plane if one doesn’t turn on the airplane mode.
To answer all these questions, we need to look back to when the USA’s Federal Communication Commission (FCC) had banned phone calls on planes back in 1991 and was adopted globally. This rule was passed due to the fact that the radio waves emitted from a phone could interfere with the plane’s transmission such as communication between air traffic and the pilots. This is further to ensure that the plane can avoid obstacles such as thunderstorms or mountains.
This concern escalated to the point where even audio and video players were considered to interfere with a plane’s avionics. However, as of today avionics has become so advanced that they are able to resist interference coming from a phone hence the rule of turning off your smartphone during air travel was later on relaxed in 2013 and passengers could use their gadgets without causing any interference.
Although you can use normal devices, like an iPad to watch a movie locally stored in your phone but it is still considered a risk to stream movies or play online games on a plane which is why the feature called ‘Airplane mode’ came around which blocks all radio transmissions coming from your phone while allowing you to use your phone safely.
The bad news of this mode for users is you just can’t hop on to social media through a cellular network instead most planes would provide in-flight WiFi for you to use. However, it doesn’t mean you can go ahead and make voice calls though it only happens in very rare scenarios.
All in all, before you ever head on a flight do ensure you have your Airplane mode on so that your phone doesn’t become the root of all transmission issues.