Time For Flight Mode On Your Mobile Phone

from the doesn't-always-need-to-be-connected dept

A few months ago, we pointed out that, thanks to a growing number of “smart phones,” flight attendants were often having trouble with passengers who wanted to use the PDA functionality of their phones, but had the wireless transmitter turned off. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way for anyone to see quickly if the phone really has its wireless abilities shut off, or if the person is just saying that to keep the flight attendants off their back. So, now, the Consumer Electronics Association is trying to come up with a standard way to easily display that a mobile phone is in “flight mode” — where the user can make use of applications on the phone, but isn’t transmitting a wireless signal. Next thing you know, they’re going to need another way of indicating to everyone that the camera part of a camera phone isn’t on…

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Comments on “Time For Flight Mode On Your Mobile Phone”

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Oliver Wendell Jones (profile) says:

Samsung already does

I have a Samsung A620 (aka VGA1000) phone from Sprint and it has a built in “Airplane Mode” that turns off the radio and allows me to play games, etc. on the phone.

When in Airplane Mode, all icons related to signal strength, etc. are removed from the display and the words “Phone Off” are prominantly displayed at the top of the screen and on the outside LCD display so I don’t even have to exit my game to show that it’s off.

The only drawback to it is that exiting out of Airplane Mode forces the phone to reboot which takes up to 60 seconds, so it’s really no faster than just turning the phone off when they tell you to and turning it back on after you land, and I usually carry my PocketPC with me for gaming and reading while on a plane, so I don’t really need the phone turned on…

Anonymous Coward says:

Not practical.

This seems poorly considered. How would the attendants know that the phone has not been modified to display a bogus “off” indicator? How would they know if someone turned it back on during flight?
I think a better solution might be to equip flight crews with transmitter detectors. These things are the size of pagers and can discretely vibrate when detecting a transmitter. This would also detect active phones in pockets, purses, carry-on luggage, etc.

Nate says:

Re: Not practical.

For something that has never been proven to be detrimental to the operation of the aircraft, this sounds like possibly going too far.

The detector would probably not be a good idea. Think of how long it would take to push back from the gate if a signal was detected and it was in the luggage compartment of the plane.

kballs says:

Re: Not practical.

How would attendants know that when the phone screen is off that the wireless is actually off? Most Windows Mobile units behave this way and a lot of people don’t even realize it… “I hit the power button so it is off right?”, then put it away in their bag, but it’s still on.

Tons of people do this already with regular phones – forget to turn it off and it’s running the entire flight, without causing problems. Think of how many people are on the plane… if even 0.5% forget to turn off the phone in their bag, then every flight has 1-3 phones on during the flight.

Now with many laptops available with HSPDA/CDMA connectivity, how do flight attendants ensure that those are put in flight mode during flights?

I’ve heard of flight attendants making people turn off their iPods because they think it’s a cell phone.

It simply comes down to form factor… small devices are all starting to look like and absorb features of cell phones and vice-versa. If you want to use one of these on a plane (with the wireless features turned off), then you’re at the mercy of ignorant flight crews. If you want to use your laptop (even nefariously with HSPDA on), nobody will care. Of course laptops and cell phones are blurring their boundaries (with big rich-featured PDA phones that look like mini-laptops, and UMPCs), flight crews will find it impossible to tell who is violating the antique FAA rules (which are already way behind if you look at the list of banned devices).

We are heading [slowly] toward one of the two scenarios:
1. an all-out ban on electronics that aren’t provided by the airline (built into the seats or portable units for rent)
2. an all-out un-ban of everything (once they retire all the old planes that aren’t shielded against in-cabin radio interference)

Because it’s impossible to bucketize all the new converged gadgets into banned and non-banned categories, they will have to ban or un-ban everything at once.

Kris says:

Mythbusters investigate

Those mad boys at Mythbusters did an investigation of mobile phones interfering with nav equipment on planes and found that mobiles did interfere on certain frequencies. Suffice to say it was a thorough scientific approach, partly done in a faraday cage to exclude ambient interference.

I have a Blackberry 7230 which had a radio off function, and it takes about 30 seconds to a minute to find a network after landing in a new city.

When the radio is off it says OFF next to the antenna symbol, how one would modify the operating system to frig this I have no idea, perhaps a Java programmer would know?

Veera says:

Re: Mythbusters investigate

Actually there is no need to turn off any radio signals at all.This is a bogus and mythical rule which came into place so that FCC and the corresponding Euro counterpart need not test each and every phone with every other plane. THere is no way flight communication can get disturbed by a bunch of cellphones. If that is the case then we need to switch of satellites and FM and TV and whatnot.If the BIRD is flying not another bird is aloowed to fly.And how come that the flight’s non-interconnected/dependent radio sub-systems don’t interfere with each other.Come on man, this is nuts.If a simple radio signal switched on will make a plane comm subsystems fail then its like saying Landing Point: (Maybe)Seatle. Oh so gullible people(including me) are believin g this non-sense. Rules and forums cannot come in teh way of life-style and technology.FCC will have to remove this stupid restriction soon.

Joker says:

“THere is no way flight communication can get disturbed by a bunch of cellphones”

I just love to read these internet forums…everyone’s a know-all.!

1 – I am a pilot, and any other pilot will tell you that it is annoying to have the cell-phone buzz in your ears.

2 – All FCC approved phones have been carefully checked for errornous transmission. Not all the phones in the world have. Or what if someone brings a cheap copy on board. So it is easiest to ban all ‘transmitting’ devices.

3.- There are new devices out daily. Again, easiest to ban all tranmitting devices.

4. – The other reason for the ban is that airborne cell phones are able to ‘lock’ into multiple cell stations at once. This causes network problems.

So let’s put this one to rest.


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