From the Editor's Desk: Android, airlines and what's to come

Android Central

Android Central
Android Central
Nov 30, 2015

It's been a few years now since the FAA (and other regulating bodies) lightened up on the use of personal electronic devices on airplanes. So we can now listen to music and watch videos and crush all the candy and crossy all the roads we want before the plane ever takes off.

That's barely scratching the surface, of course, especially when you take into consideration what passengers and the airlines could do with a full mobile OS baked into in-flight entertainment. JetBlue recently announced an update to its IFE system that will be "built on the Google Android platform," and initially hit its Airbus a320 models.

Frequent fliers will note that any number of IFE systems have used Linux for some time. (I see the Penguin hit Delta's IFE on reboot every now and then.) But a full Android build will allow for easer, faster development. Widgets. Apps.

"The vast majority of deployed in-flight entertainment systems run on various Linux builds, which really limits the level of customization an airline can apply to it," says Jason Rabinowitz, an avid transportation fan and data research manager at Routehappy. "Basic GUI updates take an eternity and performance leaves a bit to be desired."

That's putting it mildly, of course. And the shift to a full mobile operating system opens up a world of possibilities. JetBlue is just one of the early ones here in the U.S.

"Airlines are increasingly experimenting with device pairing, NFC payment, multitasking and connectivity," Rabinowitz says. "The new system JetBlue is implementing should allow passengers to stream internet content straight to the seat-back screen using the on-board Wi-Fi."

Mobile payments maybe have been slow to take off in the U.S., but not having to whip out a credit card to pay for a drink or rent a movie at 30,000 feet? That's a very good thing.

Assuming it all works, of course.

A few other thoughts on the week that was ...

That's it for this week. Time to go do some housework. I'm following these instructions.

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