Sky-High Setbacks: The Disadvantages of Airplane Mode

Published: 24 June 2024

If you’ve ever been on a plane, you’ve probably experienced having the crew tell everyone to switch their phones to airplane mode. But what exactly is this setting? Does it just stop your phone from sending or receiving signals, or does it have any other uses? 

This blog post will explore the disadvantages of airplane mode and whether or not it's a necessary precaution.

Why use airplane mode when travelling?

The reason why airplane mode was created was to avoid interference with the plane's communication and navigation systems. When a phone is not in airplane mode, it emits radio frequencies that can potentially disrupt the signals used by pilots and air traffic controllers.

Additionally, using your phone on a plane also causes unnecessary strain on cell towers, as they have to constantly adjust to the phone's rapid movement between towers while flying.

But aside from its intended purpose, there are some that enable airplane mode to avoid hefty roaming fees. Roaming happens when you're not in your phone plan's coverage area, which can get expensive. It’s believed that a phone in airplane mode will solely rely on Wi-Fi to stay connected, so you would not need to worry about accidentally using data and incurring charges.

However, there is more and more evidence that says otherwise. Some even go so far as to deem airplane mode harmful. Read on to find out why.

The disadvantages of airplane mode

While airplane mode used to be seen as a handy tool to skirt around roaming fees and save a bit of money, it has been discovered to come with a few disadvantages. Here are just some examples. 

1. Lost connectivity

The biggest downside of airplane mode is losing touch. Unless there's a Wi-Fi connection in the area, you won't have an internet connection at all. 

Additionally, you can't get phone calls or texts, which might be okay for a while. But what if there's an emergency? Not being reachable can be a big problem, especially when friends and family need to get in touch urgently.

2. Delayed notifications

When your mobile phone is in airplane mode, you won't know what's happening until you connect to Wi-Fi again. This means you could miss important messages and real-time updates. 

For people who need to stay on top of things for work or personal reasons, this delay can be more than just annoying—it can cause real problems. Worse, if a natural disaster is happening, you might not receive emergency alerts until it's too late.

3. Impact on GPS services

Did you know airplane mode can mess with your GPS? This is a big deal when you're in a new place and rely on maps to get around. 

Without GPS, finding your way can be much harder, turning what should be a fun adventure into a stressful situation.

4. Disruption of IoT devices

For those with smart homes, airplane mode can be a headache. It cuts off your phone from smart devices like lights, thermostats, and security systems. 

This means you can't control these gadgets until you're back online, which can be inconvenient or even unsafe.

5. No real battery saving for modern smartphones

Many people think airplane mode saves a lot of battery, but that's not true with today's phones. Modern smartphones are already designed to manage power efficiently. 

The battery saving from airplane mode is minimal. It might help a little, but it's not the big savings some people expect.

Understanding these disadvantages can help you weigh the pros and cons of using airplane mode, especially when travelling. Is it really worth losing connectivity and risking potential disruptions for minimal battery savings and questionable fee avoidance? 

Alternatives for worry-free data usage abroad

So, what can you do instead of using airplane mode to avoid roaming fees? 

Purchase an eSIM

A great option is to get a Truely eSIM. An eSIM is a digital SIM that lets you switch to a local data plan without needing a physical SIM card. 

This means you can get data at local rates and avoid roaming fees. This option can also help you stay connected without racking up huge phone bills.

Download essential apps and guides

When it comes to saving on your device's battery consumption, you can download maps and important files before you travel. This allows you to access them offline without using data.

Use battery saving mode

Additionally, you can simply turn on your device's built-in "battery saving mode" or "eco mode." Most modern mobile devices have this feature, which helps prolong battery life by limiting certain processes and functions. This can be a great alternative to airplane mode because it will still allow you to receive important calls or messages.

Bottom line

Airplane mode can be useful, but it's important to know its downsides. Losing connectivity, missing important messages, and affecting your navigation and smart home devices are real drawbacks. Plus, it doesn't save as much battery as you might think. 

Remember, being informed and prepared can make using airplane mode a choice, not a compromise. So, think twice before you switch to airplane mode next time.

Frequently asked questions

Why do people put their phones on airplane mode?

People put their phones on airplane mode to avoid using data and incurring roaming fees, as well as to comply with airline regulations and be respectful to others.

Is it okay to always leave airplane mode on?

It's not necessary to always leave airplane mode on, as it can affect your connectivity and potentially cause disruptions with other devices. It's best to only use it when needed, such as during flights or in areas with poor reception.

Can I still use Wi-Fi in airplane mode?

Yes, you can still use Wi-Fi while your phone is in airplane mode. This allows you to access the internet without using cellular data and potentially incurring fees.

Can I receive texts or calls in airplane mode?

No, you cannot receive texts or calls while your phone is in airplane mode. This feature disables all network connectivity, including phone and text services. However, you can use Wi-Fi to make and receive calls through apps like Skype or WhatsApp.