Airplane Mode: What You Should Know About Your Phone’s Mysterious Function

You know you should turn it on ... but do you know why? Airplane Mode: What You Should Know About Your Phone’s Mysterious Function Shutterstock

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If you’ve ever taken your phone with you on an airplane, you were probably instructed to place it on “airplane mode,” and you might not know why.

Some people think it can interfere with the operation of the plane, but that’s not true. So why is airplane mode a thing?

It’s all about the waves

Cell phones emit powerful radio waves that allow us to connect towers that relay a message to the recipient. While this is an ingenious plan that works most of the time, there are times when these signals can become jammed.

When an especially high number of people are using their phones — such as during an emergency — the towers are often overloaded.

Although we can’t stop all of these instances, there’s one form of interference that is avoidable.

Since phones emit stronger signals the further away they are from a tower, the signal from a phone high in the sky is particularly powerful. And if a plane gets closer than expected to a tower, that sudden burst can cause an awful lot of interference.

So by placing your phone on airplane mode, you’re helping to preserve connections for those of us here on the ground.

These waves are everywhere

If you could see the radio waves coming out of your phone, they’d be visible from Jupiter. They might be invisible, but rest assured that they’re constantly around you no matter where you are on Earth — and even if you venture beyond our planet.

Almost all electronics emit some type of wave, which can interfere with cell reception, internet, and other connection. This leads to the demand for more bandwidth and new satellites that fill up Earth’s orbit. Then there are the powerful telescopes that send waves deep into the universe.

Basically, there’s no escaping them.

Chris Agee
Chris Agee August 17th, 2023
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