Airplane mode, aeroplane mode, flight mode – whatever you call it – the little plane icon that resides in your Android phone’s settings represents arguably one of its most important networking features.
Here we cover how to use airplane mode, what airplane mode actually does and when to use airplane mode.
How to use airplane mode
While Android phones from different manufacturers all come with slightly different interfaces and user experiences, like a lot of a phone’s principal settings, airplane mode usually lives in the same places across the board.
Airplane mode via Quick Settings (left), Airplane mode via Settings (middle, right)
Here are the two most common ways to access airplane mode:
From quick settings
You’ll almost always find it in the quick settings menu, which is accessed by swiping down from the top of the screen twice (swiping down once usually just reveals your notifications).
From here’s you’ll need to look for an icon with the silhouette of a plane on it – tapping this will enable airplane mode, while tapping it again should disable it.
From the settings menu
You can also access airplane mode by diving into your phone’s settings menu. Open Settings and look for an option called ‘Network & Internet’ (or something to that effect).
Airplane mode (or aeroplane mode, flight mode etc.) should be one of the first settings on the subsequent list, with the ability to toggle it on or off. Just tap the toggle to enable/disable it as needed.
What is airplane mode for?
If you’re not a frequent flyer, there’s every chance you’ve never really found the need to use airplane mode. As its name suggests, outside of a flight scenario there are only going to be a handful of specific reasons to use the feature.
Typically, enabling airplane mode temporarily disables the radio antennas in your phone, meaning it can’t connect to any mobile networks and by extension is unable to send or receive calls, as well as access mobile data services or anything that requires internet access.
The main reason that airplane mode exists is to ensure that your phone doesn’t interfere with the various sensors and equipment found on a commercial aircraft by trying to send or receive radio signals.
How does airplane mode work?
Depending on your device, airplane mode might behave slightly differently when you switch it on. Some devices automatically disable not only the phone’s cellular antennas but also other wireless technologies like Bluetooth and WiFi too.
This can cause frustration if you use Bluetooth headphones, as you then have to manually reactive Bluetooth and reconnect your headphones to keep using them. Thankfully, airplane mode on most phones nowadays only disables the cellular antennas, leaving WiFi and Bluetooth in whatever state they were in before it was switched on.
GPS is usually unaffected by airplane mode and is unlikely to turn off when you turn airplane mode on.
When to use airplane mode
The name provides a big hint to this feature’s primary use case but this isn’t the only time it holds value.
As mentioned, unless explicitly told otherwise by the cabin crew, you should always enable airplane mode on your phone before takeoff and not enable it again until you’ve landed and the seatbelt signs are switched off.
If your phone’s battery is running low and you only have a short amount of time to top it up before you go, flipping on airplane mode whilst charging your phone should help it recharge a little faster as it won’t be trying to find and maintain a connection to your mobile network at the same time.
The same goes for WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC and GPS too – the fewer things your phone has to power, the quicker it’ll be able to replenish charge.
Related: How to see what’s using your battery on Android
Cinemas and theatres
Unless you need to be contactable for emergency reasons, it makes sense to flip on airplane mode when you sit down to watch a performance at your local cinema or theatre. Better yet switch it off completely.
Laboratories and music studios
For reasons similar to flying, there might be times when you find yourself in the presence of delicate equipment that could be thrown off by rogue radio signals being emitted by your phone.
Weddings and funerals
Similarly to cinemas, unless you need to be contactable in an emergency, it’s best to enable airplane mode – this way you can still use your phone to take photos and videos of the happy couple or record the best man’s speech, without worrying about your phone going off in the middle of the vows.
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