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FAA approves electronics use for duration of flights

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After years of campaigning from elected officials, the media, the technology industry and the public, the Federal Aviation Administration is almost completely relaxing its restrictions on the use of electronic devices "during all phases of flight," the agency announced today.

The news comes a month after an FAA advisory panel recommended that the organization lift its de facto ban on using electronics such as smartphones, tablets, e-readers and handheld gaming systems in the sky, including Wi-Fi use during takeoff and landing.

"Passengers will eventually be able to read e-books, play games and watch videos on their devices during all phases of flight, with very limited exceptions," reads a statement from the FAA.

You'll still need to keep phones in airplane mode, although you'll be able to use Wi-Fi on them as long as you can disable the cellular signal. If you're using an electronic device, book or magazine during takeoff or landing, you'll have to either keep it in the back pocket of the seat ahead of you or hold it in your hands. And per the advisory panel's recommendations, heavier electronic devices like laptops should be stowed away during takeoff and landing.

The FAA's new guidelines won't go into effect immediately, since airlines must prove to the agency that their planes can safely handle the use of electronics for the duration of a flight. But in its statement today, the FAA said it expects "many carriers" to do so by the end of the year.

"We believe today's decision honors both our commitment to safety and [consumers'] increasing desire to use their electronic devices during all phases of their flights," said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "These guidelines reflect input from passengers, pilots, manufacturers and flight attendants, and I look forward to seeing airlines implement these much-anticipated guidelines in the near future."

For more details on the FAA's new guidelines, you can consult an FAQ from the agency regarding the use of electronic devices on planes.