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What is flight mode?

If you’ve travelled abroad in the last decade or so, you’ve probably had a flight attendant ask you to switch on ‘flight mode’ or ‘airplane mode’ on your mobile device. 

Flight mode is easy to find on most phones. You can either navigate to your device settings or get there quickly by swiping into your control centre to tap the little airplane icon and cut off all signals.

But, what is flight mode and why is it important? 

What is flight mode? 

Flight mode is a setting found on most smartphones, tablets, laptops and portable gaming consoles, like the Nintendo Switch

The setting limits all signal transmission from your device, including cellular, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The idea is to prevent your phone signals from interfering with any systems on the plane. 

Once airplane mode is activated, you can manually toggle the latter two back on. This means you can use Bluetooth to pair a set of wireless headphones and listen to Spotify or watch your favourite Netflix show offline, or connect to the airline’s Wi-Fi network to regain access to internet services like your browser, social media, streaming services and messaging services like WhatsApp. 

However, you still won’t be able to access your cellular service until it’s safe to switch off airplane mode. This means you can’t make any phone calls or texts or access mobile data, including 4G and 5G, while up in the air.

It’s good to note that airplane Wi-Fi doesn’t have a reputation for being particularly fast. It can be weak and unreliable depending on your airline and flight, so it’s best to download some content or bring a book as a backup in case the network is down. 

Does flight mode save battery?

One common belief about flight mode is that it helps elongate your phone battery when it’s running low – and this appears to be true. 

Flight mode limits the number of transmissions your phone has to send, reducing the workload required of your phone and allowing it to focus on charging if you’ve got it plugged into an outlet. 

However, you’ll of course lose cellular features when airplane mode is activated. If you’re waiting on a call or need to use 5G, flight mode may not be the best way to reserve battery life.

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