Today while trying to figure out how to get my wife’s phone to keep WiFi on if she puts her phone into airplane mode, I learned that Android 9 and later disallow automation apps like Automate from controlling WiFi anymore during airplane mode. Android 10 appears to disable control of WiFi completely outside of the settings panel.

I came across an xda-developers post of how to keep WiFi on entirely when entering airplane mode. The key is to use adb and set airplane_mode_radios appropriately.

I have never looked into adb before, but I found it surprisingly easy to install, even for my Gentoo system. Once installed via portage, and turning on my phone’s USB Debugging in Android’s Developer Options, I simply ran:

$ adb shell
# See the current settings
F5321:/ $ settings get global airplane_mode_radios

# Only disable the cell and wimax radios when going into airplane mode
F5321:/ $ settings put global airplane_mode_radios cell,wimax

Voila, now turning airplane mode on kept WiFi on!

But I did notice that bluetooth kept turning off, even though I had excluded it from the airplane_mode_radios setting. This wasn’t a big worry, since apps can still enable and disable Bluetooth, and I could use an automation app to turn it back on, but I was still curious.

For some reason, I ended up rebooting my phone, and all of a sudden, the bluetooth setting took effect and stayed on when entering airplane mode! The airplane_mode_radios setting was unchanged, but evidently some of it only took effect if set during phone startup.