Technically, Airplane Mode is meant to prevent your phone from interfering with the instruments on board an aircraft (even though we know the risk of that is relatively low). However, it can prove useful in a host of other situations too: We’ve previously covered some of them on Field Guide, and here are three more secret airplane mode tricks.
1. Prevent people from knowing you’ve read their messages
A bunch of messaging apps—including Facebook Messenger and Snapchat—now tell you when your messages have been read, and though the feature can sometimes be disabled, it usually means it’s disabled in both directions (for both sent and received messages).
Enter airplane mode: Switch it on before reading an incoming message, and the sender is none the wiser. It depends on the app in question, but we’ve discovered that it works in WhatsApp, Snapchat, and many others.
There are downsides, of course. You can’t actually use your phone for very much at all until you’re ready to mark the message as read—but in some situations it could give you a few minutes’ thinking space while you come up with a suitable reply.
2. Troubleshoot network problems
In addition to saving battery life and preventing interruptions in a movie theater, airplane mode also resets your mobile network connection. It’s like rebooting your phone without having to sit through the loading screen for several minutes each time.
As a result you can use it for all kinds of network problems when you’re getting patchy coverage or your phone is having trouble switching between towers (or indeed networks). It can even help if you’re having difficulty latching on to a wifi signal somewhere.
It’s by no means a magic trick that instantly solves all networking problems, but quickly toggle airplane mode the next time you’re struggling for connectivity, and see if it helps. If not, then you’ll have to return to the tried and trusted approach of turning your phone on and off again.
3. Make your phone instantly kid-friendly
A lot of the concerns you might have about your kids using your phone—from visiting shady websites to making in-app purchases—can be solved by putting your device in Airplane Mode before handing it over for them to do whatever they want with it.
Obviously it’s not foolproof. They can easily toggle Airplane Mode back off if they know how, and they probably want to do something online anyway. But if you don’t want to wade through the standard parental control options then it’s a handy ‘quick fix’ to have.
You can use it when a kid of your acquaintance wants to play a game for five minutes, maybe, or for long car journeys where the youngsters want to watch an (offline) movie without having to worry about them replying to your incoming emails as well.