Australian authorities have not responded to the new ruling with most airlines operating in Australia still forcing passengers to turn off their smartphones which are banned during take-off and landings and inside the arrival halls at Australian airports.
The Federal Aviation Administration's decision, embracing recent recommendations by a high-level advisory group, effectively ends years of safety debates over the use of the devices.
The FAA said it is providing airlines with guidelines to carry out the new policy.
Current rules require passengers to turn off all electronic devices on planes below 10,000 feet. Under the new rules, passengers will be able to use hand-held devices such as tablets and e-readers from gate to gate. Larger items like laptops will have to be stowed during take-offs and landings.
Passengers will be able to use smartphones below 10,000 feet to watch movies, listen to music or access the on-board Wi-Fi system, if available, but the mobile communication signal must be turned off.
"We believe today's decision honours both our commitment to safety and consumer's increasing desire to use their electronic devices during all phases of their flights," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said.