Update Your United App This Weekend if You Stream Movies on Your Phone In-Flight
Travelers who use flight time to catch up on movies and TV shows should update the United app on their iPhones and iPads this weekend. The airline announced an upcoming app update on Tuesday, August 13, stating that older versions of the United app would no longer support personal device entertainment after that date.
Airlines began offering personal device in-flight entertainment several years ago, when the relentless onslaught of technology updates made it cost-ineffective to keep aircraft refreshed with the latest software and hardware updates. Instead, carriers opted to phase out seat back screens in favor of offering free movies, TV shows, music, meditation apps and more, directly to their customers' cellphones, iPads and laptops.
Are travelers missing out on the quintessential in-flight movie experience by not having access to built-in seat back screens? Most likely not. According to the Pew Research Center, 96% of Americans now own cellphones in 2019. Smartphone owners make up 81% of the adult population, up a staggering 56% from the same statistics from 2011. And some carriers such as Alaska Airlines are beginning to retrofit their existing aircraft with seat back ledges designed specifically to support tablets and cellphones at optimal viewing height.
Personal device entertainment technology does mean, however, that the responsibility for in-flight amusement rests squarely on the traveler's shoulders. Customers who forget to charge their cellphones, update their airline apps or otherwise lack access to a Wi-Fi enabled device will have to resort to old-school methods of keeping themselves occupied for the duration of the flight. So #firstworldproblem as it may be, we highly recommend following United's advice and updating your app before your next trip.
TPG reached out to United for additional insight, but had not received a response as of the time of publication.
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