Have mobile device, will travel


On a recent vacation, I began noticing (and pondering), all the ways that our mobile devices have affected how we function (or don’t), when we’re on the go. ¬†First off, since airlines now offer digital boarding passes on smartphones, airline workers are trained to take phones, as well as paper boarding passes, as passengers board a flight. This is now commonplace. Additionally, TSA agents are trained to show passengers how to scan the boarding passes on various smartphones. This makes it easier for travelers who wish to go paperless, have all tickets/passes in one place for the sake of convenience and organization (such as Passbook on an iPhone), or who simply prefer the overall ease of using their mobile device. Since those smart devices have now become so ubiquitous, new FAA regulations allow passengers to leave their smartphones turned on while in flight, as long as the device is in airplane mode. Of course a smart device in non-transmitting mode is only as useful as the items previously downloaded to it, and since mine has virtually nothing saved on it, I turned it completely off after showing my boarding pass. I had little time to gloat, however, about how I was surely saving the Earth one more piece of paper by using only my smartphone, when I realized as I got to the door of the plane that I didn’t know my seat number! After waiting for my phone to power on again, and then go into Passbook, I’m sure to the people behind me in line I just looked like another person who couldn’t function without her smartphone! When I was finally in my seat and scolding myself for not just keeping my phone out like everyone around me had seemingly done, I was reminded during the reading of the new FAA safety regulations of just how ubiquitous these devices are. The flight attendant, after reminding us to put our phones in airplane mode, strongly warned us that laptops did not count as mobile devices that could be used during the take-off and landing period. I realize that this is most likely about the size/weight/position of typical use for a laptop (needing the seat back tray down or holding it on your lap), rather than the function of the device itself. However, it also speaks to the increasing popularity of smart devices, and especially smartphones, and how they are taking over how we define normal functionality in communication, connection, commerce, and more. As I sat there and listened to the flight attendant while most people around me looked at their phones, I couldn’t help but wonder – how far are we from simply receiving safety information on our phones, right when we step on the airplane? Will that require airlines to allow us to keep our phones in transmitting mode, however? If so, what are the implications of that? Don’t we already run the risk of transmitting if we connect to in-flight wifi, as some flights in the U.S. are offering now? I’ve never connected while in flight because ultimately I’m too cheap and would rather have some overpriced crackers than an extra half hour of cat videos, but that’s just me. After patiently listening to the flight attendant and turning off my smartphone one more time, I settled into some light reading of the Skymall magazine, only to find the use/overuse yet again of mobile devices — a combo toilet paper/iPad holder for the bathroom — just what everyone needs! Upon landing at my layover location, I tried connecting to the airport wifi and was prompted to accept the terms of agreement, which seemed strange because right in front of me was a an inviting multi-user charging station. Did the airport support my mobile device use as much as the individual airline? What impression is sent to consumers when there are mixed messages? And do those marketing messages get even fuzzier the more we wade into a total mobile world? I guess I’ll need to stay close to my smartphone to keep up on all the latest news.