The new Gogo app, which will be available for iOS and Android smart phones, uses the plane's Wi-Fi network.
The friendly skies were once one of the only places – the subway tunnels and forests are two others – where you couldn't send or receive a test message. No longer. This week, the Illinois company Gogo rolled out a new iOS and Android app, Text & Talk, which will allow users to text using the plane's Wi-Fi.
Couple stipulations: In order for the app to work, you'll have to be on one of the 2,000 commercial planes fitted out with Gogo antennas. Airlines include American Airlines, Delta, United, and others. Second: For the time being, it appears the "Talk" part of "Text & Talk" will apply only to users outside the US.
"While we see this as more of a text messaging product for commercial airlines in the United States, the phone functionality is something that some international air carriers and our business aviation customers are asking for," Ash ElDifrawi, Gogo's chief marketing officer, said in a statement.
So is the software any good? Well, Zack Whittaker of CNET recently took the app for a spin – courtesy of Gogo and the company jet – and he liked what he found.
"During my in-flight experience, the app worked well. Text messages were sent instantly and received just as quickly," Whittaker writes. "Although the app itself is still in 'beta' development, its functionality was quite simple. Voice calls were dodgy, but are much at the mercy of the plane's Wi-Fi network."
The Gogo app, of course, comes on the heels of a decision by the Federal Aviation Administration to allow the use of some electronic devices, such as e-readers and tablets, for the duration of a flight.
"Most commercial airlines can tolerate radio interference from portable electronic devices," FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said at a news conference back in late October, according to Reuters. "It's safe to read downloaded materials, like e-books, calendars and to play games."