How to Use Airplane Mode on iPhone and Apple Watch

Airplane mode for Iphone
Girl uses airplane mode while in flight. Ben Pipe Photography

Anyone who's flown on a commercial airline knows the part of the flight in which we're told that small electronics like smartphones can only be used in airplane or game mode. 

Airplane Mode is the feature of the iPhone or iPod touch you should use while on an airplane because it turns off the devices' ability to send and receive wireless data. This is a safety precaution. Wireless data use has the potential to interfere with the plane's communications systems.

What Does Airplane Mode Do?

Airplane Mode turns off your iPhone's connection to all wireless networks, including cellular and Wi-Fi. It also turns off Bluetooth, GPS, and other related services. That means that apps that use those features won't be able to function properly. 

TIP: Because Airplane Mode disables all networking, it can be helpful when you have very little battery left and need to save battery life. In that situation, you may want to try Low Power Mode, too. 

There are two ways to enable Airplane Mode. Read on to learn how to use them, how to use Airplane Mode on iPhone, Apple Watch, and more.

Turning On iPhone Airplane Mode Using Control Center 

The easiest way to enable Airplane Mode on the iPhone or iPod touch is by using Control Center. You need to be running iOS 7 or higher for this, but virtually every iOS device in use has that.  

  1. Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to reveal Control Center (or, on the iPhone X, swipe down from the top right).
  2. At the top left corner of Control Center is an icon of an airplane.
  3. Tap that icon to turn on Airplane Mode (the icon will light up).

To turn Airplane Mode off, open Control Center and tap the icon again. 

Enabling iPhone Airplane Mode Through Settings

While Control Center is the easiest way to access Airplane Mode, it's not your only option. You can also do it using the iPhone's Settings app. Here's how:

  1. Tap the Settings app to open it.
  2. The first option on the screen is  Airplane Mode.
  3. Move the slider to on/green.

To turn Airplane Mode off using Settings, simply move the slider to off/white.

How to Know When Airplane Mode Is Tuned On

It's easy to know whether Airplane Mode is enabled on your iPhone or iPod touch. Just look in the top left corner of the screen (it's the right corner on the iPhone X). If you see an airplane there, and don't see Wi-Fi or cellular signal strength indicators, Airplane Mode is currently in use.

Connecting to In-Plane Wi-Fi While Using Airplane Mode

Many airlines now offer in-flight Wi-Fi access to let passengers work, send email, browse the web, or stream entertainment while flying. But if Airplane Mode turns off Wi-Fi, how do iPhone users take advantage of this option?

It's not that difficult, actually. While Airplane Mode does turn Wi-Fi off by default, it doesn't prevent you from turning it back on. To use Wi-Fi on a plane:

  1. Begin by putting your device in Airplane Mode.
  2. Then, without turning off Airplane Mode, turn on Wi-Fi (either through Control Center or Settings).
  3. Then just connect to the Wi-Fi network the way you normally would. As long as you don't turn off Airplane Mode, things will be fine.

How to Use Airplane Mode on Apple Watch

You can also use Airplane Mode on the Apple Watch. Doing this is simple. Swipe up from the bottom of the Watch screen. Then tap the airplane icon. You'll know Airplane Mode is enabled because an orange airplane icon is displayed at the top of your watch face.

You can also set your Apple Watch to automatically go into Airplane Mode when you enable it on your iPhone. To do that:

  1. On the iPhone, open the Apple Watch app.
  2. Tap General.
  3. Tap Airplane Mode.
  4. Move the Mirror iPhone slider to on/green.