How to Survive a Long Flight With Just Your Smartphone

By David Nield on at

Even if you get the privilege of a rather clunky entertainment system built into the seat in front of you, having to sit inside a tin can for a stretch of several hours is always going to be a struggle. Thankfully, your most dependable gadget can help the time to quite literally fly by, even if you’re not connected to wifi.

Install an e-reader app

Surviving a long-haul flight using a smartphone is all about preparation, so you need to make sure you’re all set in advance. Bookworms should make use of the many free e-reader apps out there—from Kindle to Kobo—that can give you access to as much literature as you want without the hassle of an extra device (or a suitcase full of paperbacks).

These apps of course give you access to ebooks you can buy but there are also plenty out-of-copyright classics available to download for your flight: The Great Gatsby1984Les Misérables (watch out, it’s long) and Pride and Prejudice to name just four. Whether or not you own an actual physical e-reader, you can while away some time reading.

Cache your media for offline use

Your music tracks and movies aren’t much use if they’re stuck up in the virtual cloud while you’re flying through the actual clouds, so make sure you’ve got plenty of playlists and content cached ahead of time. Most of the streaming music apps let you do this, including Spotify and Rdio.

How To Survive a Long Flight With Just Your Smartphone

Television shows and films are more tricky: Netflix has no offline mode but Amazon Video now does. If you’ve bought content from iTunes or from Google Play then you can download it to your smartphone in advance, assuming you have the spare capacity on your handset (in the case of Google you can choose the download quality).

Queue up your read-it-later apps

If you’re not tempted by a proper ebook, why not catch up on some of your online reading? Any decent read-it-later app worth its salt (such as Instapaper or Pocket) will let you cache articles for offline reading, so it’s a great opportunity to finally make your way through What Is Code?

How To Survive a Long Flight With Just Your Smartphone

If you know you’ve got a long flight coming up then you might want to hunt back through your RSS reader or Twitter favourites to find all of those articles you’ve never had chance to get around to reading, or have a scout around for some new long reads that look interesting.

Think beyond your usual music library

The best way to speed up time while you’re at 30,000 feet is to forget you’re in an aeroplane and transport yourself somewhere else using nothing but the power of your mind. Rather than listening to music, try drifting away with some ambient sounds—Noisli has an offline mode, for example.

How To Survive a Long Flight With Just Your Smartphone

There are plenty of ambient noise and meditation apps to pick from, though you should check for offline capabilities and invest in a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones before you head off for the airport. Alternatively, queue up a few episodes of your favorite podcast, or a few episodes of a new one you want to try.

Get creative

Maybe being on an airplane isn’t the best way to get the creative juices flowing, but if you are the sort of person who can focus on what’s right in front of you, then working on a project you love can help you speed up the clock a little bit while you’re in the air.

How To Survive a Long Flight With Just Your Smartphone

Your options are wide open: Install a doodling app, a minimal writing app, or a music composition app. Just make sure there’s something there to help you take your mind off the trip. And if all else fails, you could always fall back on whatever addictive game happens to be storming the app charts at the time of your long-haul flight.

Top image: Pixza Studio/

This article originally appeared on Field Guide, Gizmodo's blog on how to get the best out of your tech