If you've flown on an airplane in the last decade and you have a smart phone, you've likely had to put that phone in airplane mode before the plane takes off.

While most of us simply comply with this FAA regulation have you ever wondered why you really need to use airplane mode?

In this article we'll learn what airplane mode does, why you're supposed to use it during flight, and how else it can help you in your daily life.

What is airplane mode?

When you enable airplane mode you disable your phone's ability to connect to cellular or WiFi networks or to Bluetooth. This means you can't make or receive calls, send texts, or browse the internet.

You can still use your phone, however: you can take photos, listen to music, play games, or compose emails/messages to send later. Basically anything that doesn't require a signal or internet.

How do you switch it on?

To turn airplane mode on if you have an iPhone or iPad simply swipe up from the bottom of the screen. You'll see a little airplane icon in the menu that pops up - just click it and it'll turn orange. This means airplane mode is engaged.

Just click that little airplane and all transmitting will be disabled.

You'll also notice that your wifi has been turned off and that your phone is no longer transmitting a radio signal.

If you have an Android phone, the process is similar - just swipe down from the top and switch on airplane mode.

Why do we have to do this?

Your cell phone is a powerful little device. It emits radio waves and electromagnetic interference (EMI) that can potentially mess with an aircraft's communication devices. And no one wants an airplane that can't communicate with, say, air traffic control at your destination airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has also determined that cellular signals coming from plans could overwhelm cell towers below, causing disruption to service. After all, millions of people fly every day so that would be a lot of tower clogging.

Whatever the reasons, and however you feel about them, it's a good idea to follow your flight attendant's instructions and switch on airplane mode when you're in the air.

The silver lining

Six years ago the FAA decided that its restrictions on cell phones/cellular devices were a bit too harsh. So they started allowing passengers to use WiFi and Bluetooth during flights.

If your plane has WiFi capabilities feel free to connect to the internet and browse away. Bonus: you can also use your Bluetooth headphones. You just have to manually turn WiFi back on once you're in airplane mode (in that same dock menu you saw above).

Are there other uses for airplane mode?

Think about what airplane mode does: it makes it so you can't get (or make) calls or receive (or send) messages. It also keeps you from mindlessly browsing the interwebs. Ah, the potential for peace of mind and productivity.

Get some work done

If you need to focus and get some deep work done, consider turning on airplane mode. No more distracting pop-ups, notifications, or noises from your device - what a relief.

You can set a time limit for yourself (no need to have airplane mode enabled all day. What if your SO needs to ask you what you want for dinner? Or your kid needs to get in touch?). Try a couple hours and see how much you get done.

Protect your kids

Speaking of children, airplane mode can be useful for them, too. If you give your child your phone or tablet (for some very limited screentime - right?) you don't want them accidentally calling your boss or purchasing your whole Amazon wishlist.

So just switch airplane mode on. They'll still be able to play games, take photos, and so on. They just won't be able to get into nearly as much trouble.

Charge up more quickly (and save battery life)

When your phone is in airplane mode, it's not constantly trying to find a wireless network or signal. So your battery will last a lot longer.

If you have a long day, and forgot your battery pack, switch on airplane mode. You'll get more done, have a bit of peace of mind, and your phone will still have some charge later when you need it to navigate to that hot new restaurant (or whatever) you've been wanting to try.

Bonus: when you're using airplane mode your phone will actually charge more quickly (same reasons as mentioned above: it's not trying to do so much, so can focus on charging). So if you don't have a new, super-fast-charging device, this will help you out.

Disconnect and take a break

Lastly, sometimes you just want to step away from your phone or tablet and free yourself from all the notifications. Good for you - do it.

Airplane mode makes it easy to disconnect from your device, but still leave it on (to use it as your alarm clock, for example. Or snap some photos on vacay.). So click that little airplane and leave your cares behind for a bit.