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I currently have a Nexus S with Gingerbread. I'm planning to travel oversea and I want to disconnect my phone from my cell phone provider but still be able to use the Nexus for wireless access at airports or hotels. Is there a way to achieve that in the OS without having to remove the SIM card?

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The easiest solution is to simply use airplane mode. The wifi chip still works but the cell radio will be turned off, so you have no voice, SMS or cellular data capabilities. This will be in your settings somewhere, probably Settings->Wireless and Networks->Airplane mode. You may need to explicitly re-enable your wifi after turning on Airplane Mode (ex: my phone disables wifi at first, but I can just turn it back on).

Some phones also allow you to toggle airplane mode from the power menu, but I don't know if this is a standard feature of the Android OS.

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Assuming I am in Airplane mode and I either charge my phone or shut it down completely, does the OS keep the Airplane mode state after those 2 actions? –  Thierry Lam Oct 7 '11 at 12:03
    
The answer to both of those (on my phone, at least) is yes, though the wifi chip does not automatically enable itself if I turn my phone off and then turn it back on. Minor inconvenience, but all I have to do is re-enable wifi in my settings after booting up. –  eldarerathis Oct 7 '11 at 13:49

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