What is aeroplane mode? How to toggle wireless transmissions on your device to troubleshoot or save data

FG Trade/Getty Images
  • Aeroplane mode disables the radios and transmitters on portable electronics like phones and laptops.
  • You can toggle individual radios like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on and off even if aeroplane mode is on.
  • Aeroplane mode is handy outside of aeroplane flights for troubleshooting and limiting cellular data usage.
  • Visit Business Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

Aeroplane mode is a setting found on most portable electronics — like phones, tablets, and laptops — that disables wireless transmitters like the cellular radio and Wi-Fi on the device.

Depending on the manufacturer, aeroplane mode might also disable Bluetooth and GPS. The primary intention behind the feature is to eliminate potential radio interference with critical systems on commercial aeroplanes.

How to enable aeroplane mode

You can find a quick-access toggle for aeroplane mode within easy reach on almost any portable device. On iPhones and Android devices, you can swipe down from the top of the screen to find the aeroplane-shaped button.

Dave Johnson/Business InsiderAeroplane mode is easy to find by pulling down the quick-access controls from the top of your phone.

On a laptop running Windows, click the Wi-Fi signal indicator to see and toggle on the aeroplane mode button.

Dave Johnson/Business InsiderOn a PC, aeroplane mode is found in the notifications at the bottom right of the desktop.

What happens when you enable aeroplane mode

Aeroplane mode disables the cellular radio so you can’t send or receive voice calls or text messages over cellular. Aeroplane mode also turns off Wi-Fi.

Depending on your device, aeroplane mode might also disable Bluetooth and GPS. Often, manufacturers don’t disable Bluetooth because the network is so short-ranged, and you’re allowed to use Bluetooth devices like headphones and keyboards on commercial flights. And there’s no practical reason why some manufacturers turn off GPS, since GPS does not transmit at all; it simply receives and processes signals from satellites.

While aeroplane mode turns all those individual radios off, you can selectively turn specific wireless features back on even while aeroplane mode is enabled. For example, if you are on a commercial flight that has Wi-Fi, you can turn Wi-Fi back on. This doesn’t affect the cellular radio, which is still turned off.

Dave Johnson/Business InsiderIf you turn Wi-Fi on, that doesn’t affect aeroplane mode.

Why you might use aeroplane mode

Per its name, aeroplane mode is mainly intended to reduce interference on commercial flights. But there are a handful of other reasons why you might sometimes use this feature:

Troubleshooting

If you’re having trouble with your cellular connection or Wi-Fi, a common and easy fix is to toggle the problematic radio off and back on again — it’s akin to (but less time-consuming than) rebooting the entire phone. To do that, just turn on aeroplane mode for a few seconds, then turn it back off again.

Saving data

If you are on a metered cellular plan and need to conserve your data, one way to ensure you don’t incur an overage fee is to turn on aeroplane mode, which prevents you from sending any text messages, downloading data over cellular, or making calls unless you deliberately turn aeroplane mode off. For more information, read our article on how to turn off cellular data on an iPhone.

Privacy and isolation

Some people find that enabling aeroplane mode allows them to work uninterrupted by random messages and calls. If you need some time to focus on a project, consider enabling aeroplane mode to eliminate distractions.

embed type
product
oEmbedUrl
html
embed type
product
oEmbedUrl
html

Related coverage from Tech Reference:

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.