Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
Have you been feeling the need to jailbreak lately? The latest Redsn0w and Pwnage Tool jailbreaking apps cover Apple’s 4.3.2 firmware update, so freeing your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad (not iPad 2) is as easy and accessible as it’s likely to get.
Despite being easy, free and completely legal; jailbreaking your iOS device will void your warranty. If you’re worried about the consequences should it go wrong and whether the advantages outweigh the risks then don’t do a thing till you’ve read this.
There are plenty of reasons for and against jailbreaking. Here are just a few to get you thinking.
The Argument For:
With the latest tools, jailbreaking your iPhone or similar really couldn’t be easier. Redmond Pie have a 4.3.1 and 4.3.2 untethered jailbreak guide using Pwnage Tool on a Mac and Sn0wbreeze on Windows. These guides are very in-depth and should hold your hand for the complete process.
You’ll be surprised that all it takes is the above mentioned jailbreak software, iTunes and a few clicks in your chosen tool to free your device.
The Other App Store
Cydia is an unofficial app store for jailbroken iOS devices which deals in banned or non-approved software. Not only are there free downloads available on Cydia but also paid ones. VLC is one such banned app available (for free) on Cydia. It allows users to play DivX video instead of Apple-approved MP4s – something Apple weren’t pleased about, hence the ban.
The potential for so-called “bedroom development” of apps has been given a new lease of life with recent successful jailbreaking techniques. Developers certainly won’t hit the dizzying number of downloads seen on the official Apple repository, but for many it will be a chance to get their work on iOS without having to worry about Apple’s approval.
The fact that such a resource exists is arguably one of the main reasons to jailbreak your device.
Jailbroken devices are immeasurably more customizable than those that haven’t been hacked. Not only can you change the physical appearance of your home screen, lock screen, keyboard, icons and so on but also add useful software tweaks to the UI too.
With the BackBoard theme installer available on Cydia, transforming your iPhone into a very convincing Windows Phone 7 clone or applying that big beautiful HTC-esque clock to your homescreen is a painless experience.
If you really want to turbo-charge your UI, install SBSettings to add all kinds of one-touch access to useful features such as toggling 3G, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi or changing your brightness simply by swiping across the top of your screen.
Make Some Serious Changes
Jailbreaking your iOS device also enables you to change your phone’s behavior and even add some nifty extra features. One such feature that Apple prohibited was FaceTime (or any demanding data tasks) over 3G. With the My3G application ($3.99 with a free trial, from Cydia) you can trick your iPhone into believing it is on a speedy Wi-Fi connection anywhere you have regular data signal.
This means you can finally make video calls, watch YouTube in HD or download apps in excess of 20MB using your standard 3G connection. Apple did remove this functionality in order to prevent the mother of all phone bills, so be careful if you’re not on an unlimited data plan.
If you’re sick of the default SMS handler then why not ditch it in favour of biteSMS, a popular third party effort? If you’re sick of not being able to have more than 12 apps in a folder then try Infinifolders and never worry about it again. Want to access your device’s most sensitive data? Looks like iFile is the app for you.
There’s no argument that jailbreaking an iPhone unleashes some unexplored potential, but is it worth it?
The Argument Against:
What If It Goes Wrong?
Whilst a complete “brick” is unlikely (and many have reported that it is quite easy to recover your device should something go wrong) it’s not guaranteed. If you’re not the type who is fond of fiddling to the point of breaking something, and then spending all night trying to fix it again (you should know by now) then jailbreaking might not be for you.
If you do somehow “brick” your phone (to the point of no return) then Apple won’t bat an eyelid as you’ve voided your warranty by trying to jailbreak in the first place. If your device is recoverable it will need to be wiped and you’ll have to start all over again.
Annoying? Probably. Devastating? Not really, and nowhere near as bad as a completely dud device.
Note: If you jailbreak, then restore to Apple’s firmware there’s little Apple can do to detect your past sins meaning your warranty will still stand. Just don’t let Apple know you’ve fiddled with it, obviously. If it breaks in a jailbroken state and Apple find out, they won’t fix it.
Apple often roll out firmware updates soon after a successful jailbreak release. There’s plenty of reasons why you should update (as seen in the Security section below), but any official updates are 100% guaranteed to break your jailbreak. You’ll need to do it all over again once the update is jailbreak-compatible to restore your phone’s untapped potential.
Then again you might start to enjoy the cat-and-mouse game played by the hackers and Apple, eagerly awaiting news of the latest successful jailbreak…
Security: The Big One
The risks in installing modified firmware on any device should never be overlooked. Potential security holes, bugs, or even third-party applications could render your device worse-off than a pre-jailbreak model. Security updates (or lack of them) are another hazard.
Every iOS device utilizing firmware with a serious security hole (once discovered) should be updated as soon as possible to protect against the flaw. The only issue here is that many users may be tempted to keep their jailbreak in favor of Apple’s update to retain jailbroken privileges (and leave the security hole wide open).
Whilst this is entirely subjective, and that fixing a big security hole is more important than installing a couple of banned apps; it’s an example of how delaying an update due to a jailbreak can make for an unwise decision.
The most important reasons for and against a jailbreak though, needn’t really be mentioned. If you’re already considering it, then chances are you’ll love your new jailbroken device and all the things you can do without Apple’s approval.
If you’re happy with your standard iPhone or iPad, love the App Store and don’t need half of the features I’ve glossed over – leave it out.
Have you jailbroken your iPhone? Will you? Why? Why not? Persuade us all in the comments below.