As first intimated back in March and pretty much a done deal in September, the FAA has confirmed that use of portable electronic devices by airline passengers will be permitted from gate-to-gate. Cellular devices must be in flight mode throughout, and you cannot make voice calls even via wifi.
The ruling only gives the go-ahead to airlines, so there’s no saying when individual airlines might start applying the policy, but it’s unlikely to be before next year.
One uncertainty remains: the FAA says that approval is for ‘lightweight’ devices, and gives examples but doesn’t actually specify a weight.
Once an airline verifies the tolerance of its fleet, it can allow passengers to use handheld, lightweight electronic devices – such as tablets, e-readers, and smartphones—at all altitudes
It’s not immediately clear whether the permission includes laptops. Given the rather thin line between a lightweight laptop and a tablet, not to mention the difficulty non-technical cabin crew would have distinguishing a tablet with keyboard accessory from a laptop, this seems something of an oversight.