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Airplane Mode (minimalmac.com)
249 points by flapjack on Feb 7, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 68 comments

I've read this three times now on the assumption that its point was going over my head - I'm now fairly sure it's not.

The lesson I've learned is not to turn my phone off, in case I want to show someone pictures stored on it.

Read it again. The real message is when meeting with a friend you haven't seen in a while, make sure you set it up so you get a lot of calls, emails, and texts. Then when you go to airplane mode you seem super important, yet considerate.

And then when you go home, make sure to thank your mom for the messages.

Yes, it's funny. But I really hope you were only being funny, because I hate when the people of the Internet tries to make me more cynical than I already am.

Other trick to make the other person feel special when getting a phone call: pick up the phone and, after identifying who it is, say "hold on, I need to get rid of someone on the other line", put on mute for a few seconds and come back.

There's a business opportunity here: Make me look busy. Now somebody tell me its already been done.

It has already been done. I can't remember exactly, but I believe a Samsung phone came out in Korea recently that lets you hold a button on the side that fakes a phone call to you. No iPhone app yet though.

Edit: screen shot of the samsung manual (apparently this is a feature on a lot of their phones): http://craphound.com/images/e7KOe.jpg

Of course, now that it's a standard feature everyone is going to wonder if you really had a phone call.

Back in the early 90s when portable cellphones were still not particularly common, my uncle used to get his secretary to call him whenever he was in a meeting with a potential client to both make him look busy and, supposedly, important enough to carry such a phone.

Say what you will about the technique but he's now barely 50, retired and buying up woodland like there's no tomorrow..

My sister once told me a story from those days. She was on a ferry and noticed this obviously important man walking around speaking loudly holding one of those new cellphones to his ear. She was very amused by his bewilderment when his phone suddenly rang.

Jeez, you guys are harsh! He didn't call him the bloody Dalai Lama. He simply felt in awe of his friend's power and influence and was correspondingly honored to be treated with attentiveness uncharacteristic of the stereotypical high-powered Person of Import.

It's so easy to be sarcastic about blog entries like this. I think there is little to be gained from ridiculing such a personal anecdote, voluntarily shared with the world at large.

...or take notes, or reference my calendar, or use app X (that remains useful without a live internet stream), etc.

What Airplane Mode says (in this context) is: I don't want to be interrupted but I still want this increasingly important pocket computer to be available.

I've been doing this myself quite a bit; though more-so with my iPad. What I'd really like to see for this, is some sort of device-wide "Do Not Disturb". Something that doesn't turn off the radios, but does suppress the various 'interruptions': rings, buzzes, reminders, push notifications, etc. Because sometimes you want to focus on an app that requires a data connection.

There is a notifications profile on BlackBerry that is not visible by default but can easily be turned on that does exactly that- it's called "All Alerts Off" - WAY more silent than the "silent" profile which still blinks the little red light and pops up calendar alerts.

I have seen similar notifications profiles on other mobile OS as well, perhaps called "Do Not Disturb." In any case it would be a good one to create yourself and have.

The iPad has an on/off button in the notifications section of settings. I don't know if it will silence mail and other preinstalled apps.

The lesson is more that technology frequently plays an interruptive role in our lives and that sometimes it's just a sign of respect to turn everyone else off and focus on the person you're actually with. He was honoured to be treated that way and it's something we might all consider doing at times.

The alternate use of airplane more was more of a subtext.

The lesson is, to me, that if you garnish an obvious point with sentiment and a dash of high tech then it's compelling for a mass audience.

Turning the iPhone off is a pain. You have to hold down the button and wait for a while, then select the Power Off button. Turning it back on takes a while too. It's certainly possible that most people don't even know how to do this. Airplane mode is the obvious choice as it's faster to both enable and disable.

The nokia E-series E72 has the neatest feature. If you put it face down it silences all alarts. Nokia had a great ad campaign for real face time using this - "Somethings are more important than email".

The iphone and android badly need these features.

HTC has a feature like that for its "HTC Sense" phones.

From http://www.htc.com/www/htcsense/index.html :

"Ever fumbled with your phone because it went off at full-blast during a meeting? Well, don't worry! Now as soon as you lift your phone up to see who's calling, the ringer volume gets lower. Want it silenced completely? Just flip it over."

It also lowers the volume if you pick it up, and if you flip it over during a call, it switches to the speaker. Very handy.

There used to be an Android app that did that. Though I can't remember the name of it, it was incredibly handy.

I lost it at some point and, not remembering the app name, have failed to re-download it.

I think Locale is supposed to do that, but I don't have an android device.

Cyanogenmod (alternate ROM for Android) has a feature where you can silence an incoming call by turning the phone over.

Funny enough, I just saw an app for Android that does this: http://lifehacker.com/#!5599116/how-to-turn-your-android-pho... (God I hate LH's new design)

Unintended consequences seem like trouble here. Like many people I keep my phone in my pants pocket, if it were face inwards when I did that and I sit down then it'd turn off the alerts. Apple would get roasted if they did such a thing.

That seems a little silly to me but I do wish the toggle switch on the side of the iphone was a 3-step silent-vibrate-full instead of just full and vibrate.

My first thought was, wow, what a show of respect for me and our time together.

It saddens me that not being a rude ass is somehow worthy of blog-post out of the ordinary praise these days.

And then get >200 points on HN

Why are people always feeling "honored and humbled" these days? I think they must be confused. Just feel honored and get on with your day.

People aren't. Obnoxious bloggers are. and this guy is particularly bad.

That's the surprising thing -- Patrick's an exceptionally nice guy in person, but his social-media wankery is, for whatever reason, completely insufferable to me. Especially when he's overtly gunning to claim Gruber's pulpit. In that way, he's much like Zed Shaw from the Zed's So Fucking Awesome days: A kind, down-to-earth guy with a strangely abrasive online persona.

Citation: I attended undergrad at Patrick's last employer, and worked indirectly with him in IT Services for a year. He really is fantastic in person.

I didn't mean to pick on Patrick. This "honored/humbled" thing has been going on in our culture for a while now.

According to Google, it's been on the rise since the 40's.


Pretty interesting graph. It started growing exponentially in the 90's.

I always was thought people were just puffing words when they said that...until one day I had that exact feeling. Trust me, it does exist.

Basically, the feeling is a combination of being built up, and honored, and as a result suddenly having a realization of how little you are.

In this story, a powerful, important person honored someone lower on the totem pole. This person felt honored beyond their deserts -- thus they also felt humbled.

Very respectful, and awesome closing off of the world temporarily.

Another 'use' I find - in areas where you know you'll have no signal. With the cell radios screaming to contact a station, drains the battery worse than more or less any other part (unless you have the display on 100% brightness as well as on all the time)

Nice to see this hypothesis observed by others. I long suspected that "failing to handshake with a cell tower" incurred a significant drain on the battery.

Tow knights, upon meeting, show their mutual respect for each other by extending their hands away from their weapons and towards one another.

A modern equivalent is born?

Interesting. I thought Airplane Mode only turned off the cellphone radio. But, nope, I just tried it and it does turn off the WiFi as well. You can, however, manually turn WiFi back on, leaving the cell radio off.

More or less why I got an iPod touch instead of an iPhone. Still have a crappy $10 phone off Ebay.

I feel like this is a misuse of Airplane Mode. If your photos, etc. are "on the cloud", via Dropbox or something, they may require internet access to use. I think a more appropriate feature, which as far as I'm aware, doesn't exist, would be a no-interruption mode (probably needs a better name) that holds all notifications and calls during the time it's enabled.

You can enable just wifi when you are in Airplane mode. That's what I do.

"Do not disturb" mode?

As soon as my head hits the pillow, my iPhone goes into Airplane Mode.

I do that, but mostly to avoid "super-airplane mode", also known as a dead battery.

Why not just plug it in at night? Or, are you trying to limit the duration of your charges?

I put my phone in airplane mode for exactly this reason--it's not just being super busy, but I have lots of push notifications setup which in my daily life are helpful but while I'm sleeping or socializing not. However I need various other functions on the phone (e.g. my alarm) so turning it off not an option, moreover switching from airplane mode->non much faster.

The irony is that Airplane Mode doesn't permit you use your phone on an airplane (at least per US airline policy, despite the FAA indicating that airlines may let passengers use phones in airplane mode).

At least it lets you have a conversation without being interrupted.

I use my iPhone, HTC Incredible and 3G iPad (in airplanes modes) all the time on US flights. It's never been an issue.

I think that if an inadvertently left-on cell phone could truly disrupt an airplane we'd see MUCH stricter enforcement. Otherwise you're implying a band of terrorists playing Angry Birds in all-radios-on mode stands a significant chance of downing an airliner...

I would guess the average passenger airplane flight has 50-100 cellphones on throughout the entire flight.

If cell phone interference crashed planes, no plane would make it off the ground. I doubt there has been a passenger flight in the last ten years that took off without at least one cell phone operating in the cabin.


tl;dr Cellphones and other electronics are more of a risk than you think

If they were, planes would be crashing left and right.

They aren't.

Who are you going to believe, some engineers writing in a magazine or a massive experiment conducted over a period of 20 years involving every single passenger flight? Tens of millions of flights per year. Cell phones on every single one of them. No crashes due to cell phones.

Cell phones do not cause unacceptable interference with airplanes. Q.E.D.

Safety is operated by statistics, not boolean logic.

Things are not either safe or unsafe. It all depends on trade-offs, and what risks we can accept in exchange of other values, such as comfort.

The article mentionds, though, two worrying things such as the bias in investigations and ongoing GPS technology usage increase.

I would also stress that it _might be not_ linear. Combined risk of few hundrends of turned on cell phones is not a mere multiplication of risk for a single device.

Other than old articles from 2007 and 2008, and a couple of undated anecdotes, I was not able to find any information from any American airline suggesting that phones were prohibited on flights regardless of whether they had an Airplane or Flight mode. What current information I could find about mobile phones generally refer to using them with in-flight wifi, which seems to directly contradict your statement.

My experience is flight attendants that don't know the current policy, and assume that all phones have to be off. Maybe I'm just unlucky.

I fly frequently on a few different US airlines, all with the same basic announcement:

- All electronic devices must be powered completely off during the first and last 10 minutes of flight.

- Laptops and phones can be on during the rest of the flight if all radios are off (including WiFi and Bluetooth).

- The growing exception to the above is on planes with WiFi, where you can turn WiFi on during cruise. No other kinds of radios are allowed, even receive-only radios.

When I fly Southwest they specifically announce that you are free to use your phone if it has Airplane mode. Good enough for me.

This makes sense but is not "hacker news". It should not have made it to one of the top news - it's just obvious common sense.

it's actually a great social hack

i) communicates you are important / busy enough to be getting lots of inbound communication

ii) makes the other person feel important that you value their time

iii) it's a trick because it's a totally natural and awesome transition into being present with another person.

Airplane mode is also good for keeping your sperm count up when it's in your pockets.

Is it really that bad? I'd like to see a study on this, at the moment I'm just a bit freaked out from reading 4HB but I'll definitely try to remember doing this

What is 4HB?

The Four-Hour Body, by Tim Ferriss. There's a chapter on gaining progeny, for those who want that; he observes that when you put a cellphone next to rats for an hour a day their sperm count and free testosterone are lowered.

Tim Ferriss observed this? Or in which peer-reviewed journal did the study appear?

Strangely, I couldn't find a place in the book where he directly cites the dozens of studies he says he read; but he does quote from this one: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19578660

However, do not try keeping the phone out of airplane mode as a substitute for other contraception methods.

Why do you care about that? Unless you're actively trying to have a child?

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