Last week, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson announced in a press release that he was directing TSA to "implement enhanced security measures in the coming days at certain overseas airports with direct flights to the United States." This past Sunday, the TSA announced that one of the ways that it will do so is that TSA officers at overseas airports will require owners of mobile devices, including cellphones, to show the TSA officer that the device is powered up before being cleared through security on a flight to the U.S. According to the TSA's press release: "Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft."
When you are traveling, there is a good chance that you will be using your iPhone and iPad extensively. I know from my own experience and from what I have seen of others at airports that there is nothing unusual about using an iPhone or iPad all day long and then by the time you get to the airport, you are out of power. This often results in folks scrambling to find an outlet where they can try to recharge at the airport. But most folks wait to do that until after they pass through TSA security, when they are at the gate waiting for a flight to leave. That approach is not going to work with this new TSA requirement.
The TSA has not announced the specific airports where it will implement this new requirement. Ben Lovejoy at 9to5Mac says that the requirement has been implemented at London’s Heathrow airport. NBC News reports that smartphones will be subject to "extra security checks on U.S.-bound direct flights from Europe, the Middle East and Africa."
I'm curious whether this new requirement will actually result in better security. As John Gruber of Daring Fireball points out, couldn't a terrorist simply pack explosives into a laptop or other device that can still turn on the display?
Regardless, if you are traveling internationally, make sure that you save at least some charge on your iPhone and iPad (and laptop) for when you get to the airport. This is yet another argument for carrying an external battery when you travel so that you can charge your devices. I like the small and portable Powerocks Super Magicstick but there are tons of similar batteries on the market. Also, a travel-sized device like the Monster Outlets to Go Power Strip might also be useful if you need to share an outlet with someone else.
I hope that the TSA doesn't implement this requirement on domestic flights in the U.S.; I seriously doubt that it would stop a terrorist, but it would surely cause chaos for a lot of travelers.