You probably know a little about Airplane Mode—it cuts off all signals from your phone. But what’s the point of that? As it turns out, this is actually a handy feature you may consider using more often.
So what does Airplane Mode do, and how do you turn it on and off? Do you really need to use it while flying? And which apps remain functional while Airplane Mode is activated? Here’s what you need to know.
What Does Airplane Mode on iPhone and iPad Do?
You can find Airplane Mode on most devices, including smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Airplane Mode suspends signals on radio frequencies in an effort to stop interference. That means you won’t be able to send text messages, receive or make calls, or use Wi-Fi.
In addition, iMessage and other messaging services like WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, and Facebook Messenger stop working.
While you’re not technically prohibited from getting calls, answering them requires signal transmission, so it won’t work. Airplane Mode also stops you from using any cellular data.
How to Toggle Airplane Mode on iPhone and iPad
You can access Airplane Mode via Settings or the Control Center. You’ll find Airplane Mode near the top of Settings, but it’s more convenient to use the Control Center toggle in most cases.
To open Control Center on an iPhone with Face ID, swipe down from the top-right of your screen. If your iPhone has a physical Home button, swipe up from the bottom of the screen instead. Once it’s open, tap the button with an airplane symbol.
You’ll immediately see carrier settings disappear, along with internet signal and reception. These will be replaced by a small silhouette of an airplane in your status bar.
Do Smartphones Really Affect Aircraft?
Why is Airplane Mode necessary?
In 1991, the Federal Communications Commission banned any calls made by passengers while in the air. This was due to fears that these could interfere with electronic equipment on the airplane and towers on the ground. In 2013, the Federal Aviation Administration to recommended that travelers use their smartphones in Airplane Mode, but can use Wi-Fi and Bluetooth at a certain height if the aircraft supports it.
Many questioned the decision since, but prevailing logic has erred on the side of caution, especially when lives could be at stake. It at least puts others’ minds at rest, and stops any ongoing calls annoying other passengers.
Nonetheless, there’s no evidence that signals from a portable device have ever caused a crash.
The biggest reason not to use your phone when in the air is that it can cause interference with radio signals. This would risk annoying pilots and air traffic controllers, or even making them miss a crucial message. One or two passengers using their phones might be fine; when many do, you generate too much radio pollution. According to The Points Guy, one pilot explained:
“You’ve probably heard this interference yourself when a phone is set near a speaker. It sounds like a “dit-dit-dit-dit” tone and it’s pretty annoying. Anyone who has had to track down audio interference in a sound system understands.”
That’s rare, but shows even sending an SMS can affect a craft.
If you’re interested, here’s a handy NASA report about in-flight issues caused by phones, including fire, instrument anomalies, and headset interference. In short: Airplane Mode is still vital.
Can You Still Use Wi-Fi With Airplane Mode Activated?
Turning on Airplane Mode will disable Wi-Fi. However, you can manually re-enable Wi-Fi while keeping the other effects of Airplane Mode active. Go to Settings, turn on Airplane Mode, then tap Wi-Fi and toggle it on.
If you’re on a plane, make sure you ask an attendant before doing this. Some planes offer their own Wi-Fi, while you should avoid using it on others. While not on a plane, this is an easy way to cut off all communication except Wi-Fi access.
GPS in Airplane Mode is a little different. It doesn’t transmit signals, but only receives them. Thus, turning on Airplane Mode does not disable GPS functionality. However, your phone won’t be able to use nearby Wi-Fi networks to help figure out where you are.
Can You Use Bluetooth While Airplane Mode Is Activated?
Like Wi-Fi, you can use Bluetooth with Airplane Mode turned on. Head into Settings > Bluetooth to enable it after turning Airplane Mode on.
For safety, you should check with airline employees, as some don’t want you to use Bluetooth during take-off and landing. Your iPhone has a short Bluetooth range of roughly 30 feet, which shouldn’t affect the plane’s systems.
What Is the Purpose Of Airplane Mode on iPhone?
This feature isn’t just useful when you’re flying to your next vacation. Airplane Mode has all sorts of uses.
It’s notably useful if you’re trying to concentrate on something important. Airplane Mode quickly stops notifications from disrupting you.
Does Airplane Mode Charge Your iPhone Faster?
Yes, your phone charges faster in Airplane Mode!
It’s your battery’s friend, whether you’re trying to charge quickly or keep it running a little longer. Searching for cell signals, refreshing apps in the background, and other activities all use power. With those functions disabled, the energy you would use stays in the battery.
Plus, it stops you from using battery-draining apps and you probably won’t have the screen on for long since you can’t use most apps.
Does Airplane Mode Aid Your iPhone’s Performance?
Airplane Mode doesn’t have an effect on software performance. However, it can help if you’re having trouble getting a signal or are experiencing connection issues.
Switching Airplane Mode on and off again can sometimes help you fix carrier settings. Think of it like restarting your smartphone’s network connection.
How Does Airplane Mode Affect Freemium Apps?
We’re all familiar with “free apps” that are loaded with in-app purchases. While you might not mistakenly purchase them yourself, handing your device to children can unintentionally lead to huge charges. Before you give kids your device, switching to Airplane Mode will prevent any additional purchases or downloads.
Airplane Mode will also often prevent ads from showing in free apps, because most of them need a network connection. However, you’ll be out of luck if the game is online-only.
Which Apps Work and Don’t Work in Airplane Mode?
Turning off all transmission can feel like a big step. Let’s see which apps specifically work in Airplane Mode.
Do Alarms Still Work in Airplane Mode?
Yes, all functions in the Clock app will still work. You can rely on your iPhone to wake you up in the morning. Alternatively, Do Not Disturb is a good way to suppress notifications without going offline.
Do Reminders Work in Airplane Mode?
Yes. Reminders rely on your device’s own clock, so they don’t need any signals. Reminders you added from other devices (like a Mac) won’t come to your device as long as it’s in Airplane Mode, however.
Can I Still Send Emails in Airplane Mode?
After activating Airplane Mode, your Mail app will tell you to either turn the mode off or use Wi-Fi.
You might still be able to read messages in your inbox, and in some cases, can compose an email. It won’t actually send, however, until you deactivate Airplane Mode or connect to Wi-Fi. You’ll find pending messages in your outbox.
Remember to check this if someone claims you never replied to their message.
Do Emergency Service Numbers Work in Airplane Mode?
You can’t make any calls while in Airplane Mode, including to emergency numbers. Make sure to disable it before placing a call. When you try to call any number in Airplane Mode, you’ll see a message reminding you about this.
Can I Check Weather in Airplane Mode?
Image credit: Alan Levine/ Flickr
No. Because weather updates rely on an internet connection, you’ll see outdated information in your weather app. Try looking out the window to get the latest weather.
Can I Check Stocks in Airplane Mode?
The Stocks app is useless for the same reason as Weather. You may still be able to see data downloaded before you used Airplane Mode, though. News won’t work either.
Can I Check Notes in Airplane Mode?
Yes. These are all stored on your phone, so don’t require any network connection. You can’t AirDrop, iMessage, email, or share notes on social media unless you’re back online, though.
You can still create new notes, but they won’t automatically sync with your other devices until you disable Airplane Mode.
Can I Check Photos in Airplane Mode?
Your camera will work normally in Airplane Mode, and you can still browse photos that are stored on your device. These won’t sync with iCloud until you access Wi-Fi again, and you can’t view photos saved in online storage like Google Photos.
Can I Browse iTunes or the App Store in Airplane Mode?
No, because they both require a network connection.
Can I Watch Videos or Listen to Music in Airplane Mode?
If you’ve already downloaded media, you can watch or listen in that particular app. Otherwise, no. You can’t use YouTube, Spotify, and similar services to stream anything you haven’t saved offline.
Will Siri Work in Airplane Mode?
Like all voice assistants, Siri relies on the internet for information, so you won’t be able to use it. You can, however, still record Voice Memos.
Can I Play Games in Airplane Mode?
It depends on the game. If your game is fully downloaded and works offline, you can play it. Games that require an internet connection will fail to work, though. Download some of the best offline iPhone games before your next trip so you always have something to play.
Airplane Mode Is a Handy Addition to Your Phone
Airplane Mode is a really great feature in iOS and other mobile operating systems. It can save you time, money, and hassle when you don’t want to go online or be bothered.
If you used Airplane Mode to troubleshoot your carrier data, check out our tips for speeding up a slow mobile data connection .
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