Is not being able to use your cell phone on an airplane because of any actual interference with flying the plane or is it just a ploy to make us pay the exorbitant rates of those AT&T phones in the seats?
There have been reported instances of cell phones interfering with aircraft electrical systems, eg navigation, and if I recall correctly, a case of interference with the fuel injection system in a general aviation aircraft.
The cell phone ban is (mostly) an FCC rule as opposed to the FAA: FCC Rule 22.925 states, “Cellular telephones installed in or carried aboard airplanes, balloons, or any other type of aircraft must not be operated while such aircraft are airborne (not touching the ground). When any aircraft leaves the ground, all cellular telephones on board that aircraft must be turned off.”
The concern is that cell phones operated from altitude have the potential to multiple cell towers simultaneously causing problems within and across cellular systems.
The Federal Aviation Regulations do prohibit the use of portable electronic devices while an aircraft is operating under IFR (FAR 91.21). That would include cell phones but it’s a moot point as the FCC has already banned them.
Here’s a recent thread that sorta ties into your question:
Cecil covered this, long long ago. He was talking about transistor radios, but it’s the same deal.
How about GPS? I know that, the last time I flew Southwest, they had GPS systems on the “allowed electronics” list.