The FAA has decided it's safe to operate most electronics for the duration of a commercial flight.
In a press release issued on Halloween, it said that although mobile phone use will still be banned, it will advise airlines that it's safe to allow other items.
The exact wording of the announcement puts it like this:
"Electronic items, books and magazines, must be held or put in the seat back pocket during the actual takeoff and landing roll."
At least, that's the prescription from the government. Airlines may be more strict if they choose. But on paper, it means you could feasibly use your iPad or e-book reader up until the moment of takeoff, put it in airplane mode and pop it in the seat back pocket until wheels up, and take it right out again. Currently, you must switch them off and put them away for long stretches of time.
However, if your smartphone allows Wi-Fi use, including conversation by Wi-Fi, and the airline offers a signal, the FAA says it's safe to do that.
In a press conference, the head of the FAA said that perhaps 1 percent of flights will be in aircraft that can't handle the activity, and in those cases, passengers will simply be asked to switch off their devices.
You'll still have to put them down to pay attention to the in-flight safety video.
The changes will take some time to roll out, but the loosened restrictions should be in place "very soon," according to the FAA.