United's Newest Planes Will Support Bluetooth Connectivity

Image: UnitedUnited recently announced that it will be purchasing 270 more planes. These planes will feature upgraded cabin technology such as faster wifi, in-seat displays and, most importantly, Bluetooth audio support. It's time Uniteds planes had some new technology, but I am also curious if it is enough.AdvertisementUnited stated in a press release that its new 270 jets will provide the best customer experience in aviation thanks to improved features like overhead luggage bins and the industry's fastest in-flight wifi. They also have access to power outlets and USB charging ports for each seat. Perhaps most importantly, they offer Bluetooth connectivity for inflight entertainment.United will also upgrade its in-screen screens with new 13-inch HD displays in first class and smaller 10-inch HD screens for economy. United also plans to upgrade its in-screen displays with new colored LED lighting. This is similar to the color you see in smaller airlines like JetBlue or in a growing number luxury cars.Apart from the order for 270 new planes (which include a mixture of Boeing 737 Max 8s and 737 Max 10s and Airbus A321neos), United also promised to retrofit existing fleets with similar tech in order to provide a better and more connected experience across all its fleet.Don't get me wrong, I think all of these upgrades are great. Any help is appreciated when you are stuck in a chair for long periods of time. As someone who used to travel frequently before the pandemic, and now lives just 20 minutes from United's Newark hub, I am unsure if incremental upgrades are the best approach to improving travel tech.Tech on trains and planes is plagued by a slow tech industry. By the time transport providers upgrade to USB-A charging ports that produce five watts of power and gadgets with USB C ports with support for fast charging are already available.United's new HD 10- and 13-inch screens are a good example. The vast majority of passengers will not be able to see the larger displays in the first class. It is also unclear whether those screens are full HD (1080p), or plain HD (aka720p). I hope it's the latter, for future United passengers. I'm assuming that we can all forget 4K.AdvertisementUnited's new planes will begin carrying passengers this summer. However, the larger 737 Max 10 or A321neo planes of United are not expected to arrive until 2023. United's retrofit timeline is not complete until 2025. This is a long time for tech to develop.Which one do you prefer? This was first class. Sam Rutherford. Photo by Sam RutherfordAdvertisementMy Galaxy Z Fold2 was almost the same size as my seat display on United. It was also sharper, more colorful and responsive. Although it is unrealistic to expect everyone to have a $2,000 folding phone, prices will drop significantly over the next few decades. And things could change in 2025. Before we even think about ubiquitous devices such as tablets and traditional big-screen phones. Laptops offer better entertainment experiences and you can control them, rather than relying on the airline for something. People would have a better experience, if they could pretend that in-seat displays don't exist and instead download their airline app to their phone or tablet so they can watch videos on their own devices.Maybe the new screens are just a waste of money. It doesn't mean that the industry has the fastest in-flight WiFi. I have never experienced wifi speeds exceeding 15 Mbps on any of my flights. Fast wifi is not useful for most people if you have to pay an additional fee for access to the internet. This was what happened to me about a month ago.AdvertisementThe Bluetooth part must be reliable, right? Imagine the chaos that could ensue if a flight full of passengers tries to pair their Bluetooth headphones with an in-seat display. Although it is easier to sync Bluetooth devices than ever before, I worry about the mental health and safety of thousands of flight attendants who might soon be part of the Geek Squad.What worries me most is the fact that United claims its new planes will have more space for premium seating. This is a tacit plan by United to encourage more people into upgrading to Economy Plus or first-class, increasing the disparity between the quality and quantity of seats on a flight.AdvertisementInstead, I'd love to see airlines add clips or stands to hold tablets and phones. Or, take some money to buy new displays in the seats to make wi-fi free and accessible to all. You can put data caps on the in-flight wifi, but I won't be forced to pay more than $5-10 just to check my email during a 2-hour flight. If airlines offer TV shows on-demand, I will gladly pay for a complete season rather than a few unconnected episodes.It's not all bad. Positive changes include making charging ports available at every seat, adding Bluetooth connectivity to all Bluetooth earbuds, and speeding-up in-flight wifi (even though you have to pay an additional fee). However, I am not certain if this is the kind of tech upgrade that many travelers are looking for.