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Anyone know if the GPS works in Flight Mode on the 4?

28057 Views 29 Replies Latest reply: Jan 28, 2013 10:07 AM by Drewvian RSS
  • Rick Wilson Calculating status...
    If you buy the Tom Tom or Navigon app, the maps are stored in the phone. So in that case, wifi off would be OK. However, location services must be on and working.

    Removing the plane from the equation, how would one turn the phone off to prevent making or receiving calls, prevent getting data from cell towers BUT still be able to use wifi, the location services functions, camera, ipod, apps, etc.?
    G5 and MacBook Pro, Mac OS X (10.5.8)
  • Lawrence Finch Level 7 Level 7 (24,595 points)
    Turn Airplane Mode On, which turns off all radios. You can then turn WiFi and Bluetooth on separately while still in Airplane mode.
    Lenovo T-60, Intel iMac , Dell/Ubuntu 8, iPhone 3GS iOS 4.0.1, Windows XP Pro, Leopard 10.5.4
  • EBSkater Level 2 Level 2 (490 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Jul 19, 2010 6:25 PM (in response to Etek)
    Etek wrote:
    What the **** does wifi has to do with gps in the first place? You need the gps radio to work which requires CLEAR SKY above the phone, and I doubt you could take the phone out while flying, but you can try.

    Wifi is only required to maps to download pictures, but if you use TomTom's gps app or Igo you don't need wifi.


    I was waiting for someone to mention this.
    MacBook Pro 13.3", Windows XP
  • Jim VanLeeuwen Level 6 Level 6 (18,820 points)
    When airplane mode is on, an airplane symbol appears in the status bar at the top of the screen. No phone, radio, Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth signals are emitted from iPhone and GPS reception is turned off,
    27" iMac, Mac OS X (10.6.4), iPad+3G, iPhone 4, 6 iPods
  • dug29 Calculating status...

    The real question here is: why do Apple choose to inhibit the GPS function in Flight mode?   Note in most other parts of the world it is call flight mode and it is an Aeroplane!!


    There is no FAA rule regarding GPS use in flight, just some of the airlines in the USA and Europe.  In many other countries it is permitted. 


    How come Nokia phone with GPS works in flight mode??   Sure you many not have the maps, but the GPS works and you can at least save a position.  


    This is an issue for Apple who clearly dont have much knowledge in this area, in particular outside the USA.

  • gawky4714 Calculating status...

    Has anyone tried using the iPhone to track a flight? If so, did it work? Did the GPS keep track of your position in Airplane Mode?

  • kc1974 Calculating status...

    Buy a Garmin and hold it up to the window. Or an Android, Nokia et al. Other option is jailbreak it and turn everything off but GPS. Pulling the sim won't do anything - it's still looking for signal even on CDMA 4S.

    GPS works fine without cell service, data and wifi as long as you have a cached map like Tom Tom USA or ForeFlight app. I was in the middle of nowhere, CO, hiking and Tom Tom knew exactly where I was, sans Verizon, so I have no clue why Apple restrict us to wifi only in airplane mode. There's no logical reason for it and GPS is less of a risk to flight than wifi since your phone scans for wifi signal with wifi on and could interfere with navigational equipment, whereas GPS is receive only. Of course, planes that have wifi service are properly shielded.

    Other option is just leave your phone on, but it's not advisable, especially on an old plane that is susceptible to interference. Btw I left my phone on unknowingly for 8 hours over the Atlantic on a 777 and only realized when at 5,500ft my phone started receiving texts.. So I guess Boeing 777's are okay...

    Source on the whole risk to flight thing: British Airways B737, B777 pilot w/6,500 hours.

  • cab41610 Calculating status...

    If you are still interested, I have created an app that was built to show you where you are and what you are looking at out your plane window.


  • Piercostanzo Calculating status...

    It seems that iPhone and iPad gps doesn't work on an airplane.

  • dug292 Calculating status...

    GPS & FLIGHT Mode on the iPhone 4.


    Nobody on this thread has addressed the prime cause.


    Why do Apple inhibit the GPS in flight mode?


    Is it a technical issue or are they doing it on misguided advice?


    GPS is receive only.  An app with stored data such as Tom Tom or other aviation programs that store maps do NOT require phone coverage to work. Other phones such as Nokia don't do it, so why Apple.  It is not a requirement of the FAA as in most countries GPS is permitted for use in aircraft including passenger carriers.  It is just that in the USA and Europe some airlines do not permit it.  So why penalise users worldwide??

  • paulcb Level 6 Level 6 (18,690 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 18, 2012 4:11 PM (in response to dug292)


    Why do Apple inhibit the GPS in flight mode?


    Is it a technical issue or are they doing it on misguided advice?

    Sorry, no one here can answer either of those questions.  Only Apple could and they have not.

  • Calculating status...

    I am a pilot and have several aviation related apps that use GP,S using a New iPad (Verizon LTE). I also started using the Appaero Stratus that uses a WAAS GPS to supplant the iPad GPS when connected to the iPad while using ForeFlight (O/T the iPad just uses its own).


    From what limited testing I've done I have I have formulated a theory.


    I think the iPad/iPhone (also have a 4S) need a cellular lock for the GPS to start functioning. When I fly I never seem to have trouble when I start the app (utilizing GPS) on my device when on the ground, but if I start the app using the GPS in the air it never, EVER locks on the GPS. Mind you I'm flying my own airplane and don't have to turn off the device at any stage of my flight. Today it would not do so even with the Stratus' GPS available.


    I think it's simply something Apple never originally thought would be a problem.


    Short version: to use the Apple device's GPS, a GPS using app must be on and running prior to losing cell coverage. If this does not occur the attempt to use GPS for an app will fail until returning to cell coverage.

  • dug292 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    I am a pilot also, and find it interesting that Apple inhibit the GPS in flight mode. It is not a regulatory requirement. Nokia phones with GPS work in flight mode, so why not Apple??


    In relation to the previous post, I have a aviation program in my ipad that does not require any cell coverage to work, just the GPS signals. It works whenever I turn the ipad on and open the app, cell coverage or not.


    I understand many users now use a remote GPS receiver and bluetooth it to the ipad.  Apple have failed to understand the needs of aviation users it seems.



  • Sunclock Calculating status...

    It is FANTASTIC to finally know EXACTLY where i am in the air--and knowing the Altitude and velocity is great too!!  Very fascinating!


    I have used MotionX-GPS to track my ground position successfully on quite a few flights in a Commercial Airplane.  This is not Motionx Gps-Drive (to remove confusion about the two apps).  With Motionx-GPS, you can save your TRACK and upload it for viewing on the web or for others to view.  As others have said you must first download the  maps into the app before hand.  YOU CANNOT do this with the normal Google MAP app on the iphone.  Once you have downloaded those maps you are fine.  Then to save battery power, you'd think you can turn off CELL and WiFi,  but you can't.  You have to have one or the other ON.  I don't think it matters which one (not totally clear on that).  [ i think WiFi consumes LESS power]  So this uses more power than you should have to,  but it works.  Even though you are not getting DATA through these, it seems that one must be on to activate the GPS.  Also you can take photos in the app and they will be GEOtagged for later viewing along your track.

    I haven't noticed about having it on BEFORE takeoff,  being an absolute REQUIREMENT,  but if you don't I think it takes a long time to really get a fix.  I haven't been able to try every experiment yet.


    You MUST be near the window and hold the phone up close to the window.  So this makes your arm tired.  It is best to have it on BEFORE takeoff and through out landing,  so you have to be careful about that non-sensical rule that has no Science behind it (as far as being a danger to the airplane).  


    Here is an example of 2 flight paths i recorded.  Las Vegas to Oakland  XNA, Ar to DFW to Tampa, FL

  • Drewvian Calculating status...

    Not sure if this was said or not, but when you put your iPhone in Airplane mode it is turning off Cell, Wi-fi, bluetooth and GPS. That is why will be unable to track your flight. What you can do is go and turn off Cell, wireless and bluetooth. Also, you are right turning these features off does consume less battery power and will allow you to track your flights longer. Sorry if any of this is just rehashed from above. I'm tired and was to lazy to read.

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