Android iPhone and iPad

Which One Does More: Jailbroken iOS vs. Custom ROM Android

Erez Zukerman 24-05-2012

ios vs androidSometimes it feels like the “Android vs. iPhone” war is taking on epic, religious proportions. Each side has its loyal fanatics absolute in their knowledge that their platform of choice is the best one, and that the other side doesn’t know what they’re talking about.


This can be seen with “regular” users who just take their devices and do what they’re supposed to do with them, but it is even more pronounced with hard-core geeks. I am talking about Android users who install custom ROMs and kernels on their devices, and iPhone users who jailbreak their devices and use Cydia to install all sorts of goodies.

So let’s take that class of users and ask a difficult question: Which does more – a jailbroken iPhone, or an Android device running a recent, custom build of Ice Cream Sandwich?

What I Use

ios vs android

The most important thing to get out of the way here is what I use personally. I won’t try to claim I am neutral here, nor do I think this story could be written by anyone who is truly “neutral”. So, I have an Android device – a Samsung Galaxy S II, running a custom ROM called Resurrection Remix (Android 4.0.3) and a custom kernel called Siyah kernel. To represent the iOS side of things, I’ve done my research online and asked my fellow MakeUseOf writers, several of whom own jailbroken iOS devices.

Rooting Vs. Jailbreaking Vs. Custom ROMs

jailbreak ios vs android


There are a few important distinctions to make when it comes to jailbreaking an iOS device versus installing a custom ROM on an Android device. Let’s get our terminology straight here:

Rooting: This is something you do with an Android device, and does not require a special ROM. When you root a device, you are effectively telling Android to treat you like a grown-up. Suddenly, apps you install on your phone can do crazy things like backup and freeze system software, keep your phone from ringing when someone annoying calls, and more.

Jailbreaking: This is the iOS parallel for rooting, more or less. Meaning, you don’t install a separate version of iOS itself, but you use the same iOS you’ve used before, just with special permissions and the options to install more software and plugins via Cydia.

Custom ROM: And here we’re back to Android; a custom ROM How to Install a Custom ROM on Your Android Device Ready to revitalize your Android phone or tablet? Installing a custom ROM is the best way to do that -- powering it up with even better performance and features. Read More is a complete operating system, such as CyanogenMod, which outright replaces the OS that came with your phone. So all of the carrier-specific crapware that came with your phone goes away, replaced by something (hopefully) leaner and cleaner. There is no exact parallel for a custom ROM on iOS: iOS is a closed-source operating system, so nobody can create a “modified” version of it. Android, conversely, is open-source and thus it is easy to create numerous spinoffs, each with its unique qualities.

Jailbreaking and Rooting: An Open Door

jailbreak ios vs android

When you jailbreak your iOS device or root your Android one, you are effectively opening a door. The device won’t be any different off the bat: On iOS, you will have Cydia and would be able to install some new apps. But there won’t be any other major differences until you start customizing things and really using the power you’ve unleashed. Just like any door you open, both good and bad things might come across to the other side.

Says Aibek Esengulov, MakeUseOf CEO and long-time jailbroken iOS user:

“With the jailbreak you get lots of goodies like Cydia and tons of apps that come with it. I noticed that my phone became considerably slower after a few months of playing around with Cydia apps. Another problem is the actual security of the iOS, I wouldn’t open my Gmail or a banking app on a jailbroken iPhone.”

Since jailbroken apps are so unofficial, they might not all be completely on the up-and-up. The same thing can be said regarding rooting your Android device: Great, it’s rooted, now what? If you just roam around Google Play (or less savory corners of the Internet) installing apps as you find them, you may certainly mess things up. After all, there is a reason your phone is not rooted to begin with.

So, both with jailbreaking and rooting, the real question is what next? i.e – what do you do once you’ve broken down the wall, what apps do you install? And here, nothing will serve except for common sense. Both on Android and on iOS, there are root-level apps that are well-regarded and highly trusted, and you can install those without being too afraid they will mess things up. Still, even after jailbreaking, your iOS device will still be an iOS device – you will not be able to suddenly start using widgets, for example, although there is a tweak for that.

There is one difference between jailbreaking and rooting: Apple is definitely against jailbreaking, and tends to disable well-known jailbreak methods with software updates. For example, iOS 5.1 disabled known jailbreaking methods, and jailbreak users were warned not to install it or they would lose all of their jailbroken customizations. This doesn’t generally happen on Android, especially when you go with a custom ROM.

Custom ROM: The Complete Package

ios vs android

Unlike jailbreaking and rooting, when you install a custom ROM, you really get a package deal. The custom ROM is usually already rooted, and many ROMs come with a numerous apps already bundled in, such as Swype, as well as localizations. This is not always a good thing: If you are an advanced user and know what you want, you may not want your ROM to include a whole bunch of apps you’re not going to use, and will just take up space on your device. So again, here you need to carefully pick and choose what you’re looking for.

The best place to find Android ROMs is XDA Developers, a fantastic forum system for mobile developers and users. For example, this is the forum for the Galaxy S II, and it contains plenty of ROMs for you to choose from. XDA also contains forums for other devices, of course. This is not something you should go about recklessly: It is not like installing an app from Google Play. Flashing a new ROM could theoretically go wrong, but the bigger issue is that new ROMs can be buggy in all sorts of annoying ways and freeze your device just when you need it (speaking from experience). So, it is usually best to really take time and read the discussion threads, and go with a ROM you feel you can trust. And of course, don’t forget to make a backup!

Bottom Line

This is where I blow you away with a sensationalist punchline that will set off furious flame wars in the comments. Or not, actually: There is no clear winner here. As much as I love Android, the selection of apps on Cydia is truly impressive, and it is a mature platform. I would say that for dedicated power users, both options are equally viable, and both require care and attention to what you’re doing (with power comes responsibility, right?).

The only key difference is that Apple is actively trying to fight jailbreaking, while Google doesn’t fight rooting at all. Still, if you’re nerdy enough, you will be able to get your phone to work like you want it to – whether it is an Android or iOS device.

Image Credit: laihiu

Related topics: Custom Android Rom, Cydia, Jailbreaking.

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  1. josh
    November 11, 2012 at 4:53 am

    Well, as an iOS user, who does use androids, i find that more spectrum's are here, like that with cydia you can get a lot tweaks widgets a make shift droid but as a programmer i'd pick up my droid before id pick up my iphone , while custom roms can be a pain in arse so can getting an update for iOS a lot like going on your xbox after buying halo 4 or black ops 2 to find you have to update your not altogether legal xbox stress will always be there it comes to what you value if you want a great tech support:droid if you want lots of games:iOS if you want long battery:droid If you like to goof off:iOS and last but not least if you don't want your text to fix itself:droid (although you can always turn off auto-fixing grammar on iOS)

  2. Carl Jacob Saldi
    October 13, 2012 at 6:33 am

    oh yeah i love tinkering my phone..

  3. Scott
    October 11, 2012 at 3:11 am

    I've been in both camps. You can't compare the two, most of the functionality you jailbreak IOS for Android can do without root.

  4. Scott
    October 11, 2012 at 3:08 am

    I've owned an Iphone 3g, 3gs, and 4. Have jailbroken all of them and returned them to stock too. Then I switched to android. I've had a few of them. I honestly don't think you can compare the too. There are things I miss about IOS, but it is just too restrictive. As to this article, comon, a lot of the functions we jailbreak IOS for you can do in Android without root!

  5. Sim Kern Cheh
    October 3, 2012 at 11:57 am

    Actually I would not put custom rom customizations in the same comparison level as just simply rooting. Custom ROMs is not just about tweaking Android or getting a package deal per se. They actually do add features. Some of them even sport a totally new kernel that saves more battery in the long run. Things like ADB over network (you can literally do app programming without a cable) and physical button overrides are a few examples of some things you cannot achieve by just rooting.

  6. Daniel Brown
    August 21, 2012 at 2:55 am

    I've got a Nexus 7 and an iPhone and the one thing I definitely prefer about jailbreaking is the level of control you get over your phone. With Android devices, its true power is only brought to life when it's given a heavily re-designed CustomROM, whereas jailbreaking leaves your phone (for the most part) EXACTLY the same. You are then free to instantly install any tweak you'd like on your phone, or any app you want too. Some of the apps and tweaks I see on Cydia that Apple refuse to put on the AppStore are truly incredible; there's definitely a lot of talent and time put in behind that scene. I keep my iPad mostly vanilla, but you can change it to be completely wild and unique. And it's controlled by you to a T.

    Android speaks of "open source" and "total control" as an advantage over iOS, but in reality the majority of android users do not make changes to their phones themselves. A Jailbroken iDevice (specifically the iPad) is unmatchable.

    • jeff
      October 13, 2012 at 1:23 am

      I have the exact as phone ( GS II i9100) the author of this article has, in fact i have the same ROM as well only updated ( resurrection remix 3.8 jellybean ) but I also have an 8GB 2nd gen ipod touch, an 8GB 4th gen ipod touch, and a 32GB 4th gen itouch, all jailbroken.

      I started with apple and solely used IOS 3 years and it wasn't until the release of IOS 5 that I even got an android. I've used cydia for a LONG time and it reality the customization if weak, ya you can get apps for free you can make it look all pretty with winterboard, you can have siri, and cool widgets in the notifications and even the homescreen if ya want you can even make a hotspot with the iphone. But there are limitations such as the devices have so little RAM that if you want to keep the device somewhat smooth then you can only have about 3 or 4 major tweaks, if you tried to all all that great stuff i just mentioned at once then you device would load at 0.2 miles per hr. i keep 2 or three tweaks on mine max and my device never skips or slows down.

      Now on android if you want winter board why root? you could download any 3rd party launcher and have the equivalent of: winterboard+barrel+ 5 icon dock+grid locker+folder closer+ infinity folders+five column springboard+infinidock+bigify + shrink +weather icon+android delete(but it also has iOS-like delete build into it)+even more that I'm not even going to waste the time to mention. all of those tweaks would make your IOS device super slow and most of those tweak cost at least 3$ mean the total cost could be over 20$ while you can get apps like go launcher for an unrooted android for free and that do everything those tweaks can do and more. also many tweaks like; browser changer, SB settings, download manager, ifile, five icon dock, flux, no lockscreen, android lock screen, NoNewsIsGoodNews, passwordPilot, AnyAttach, Airblue sharing, autocorrection bar, Dashboard X and many many more are already part of the system of android, especially newer versions. Okay that covers most all of the major tweaks, there are a few such as siri that android lacks, but in reality siri sucks the only thing i have found it useful for is short-term entertainment, you can find movies, foods, attractions, and most answers faster on android, okay you can't "find where to hide a dead body" faster but that question falls under entertainment . one last major difference is androids runs the launcher and regular system SO much faster than an IOS device would if loaded up with the amount of cydia tweaks in needed to to get the same functionality.

      okay if your still reading this (wow and thanks lol) I just covered how an unrooted android covers most all things a jailbroken IOS device could do, now lets see what a rooted, but no ROM android can do. have you ever wished you could make your device faster? overclocking (which mine is) or more battery life? undervolting (which mine also is) or what about both? yes both, never at the exact same time but i have an app that reduces the processing speed to almost nothing when the device is not in use, I got my said-to-be 6 hour acer icona A500 to last for 4 days of use, i charged my samsung gs2 with the tablet twice and watched youtube and downloaded v for vendetta and took notes in class, as well as other uses during the 4 days, only to end up with 42% battery today. Thats customization. you can do things like fast charge, setting the available RAM amounts change the boot animation easily, enable the phone to rotate the screen 180 degrees, change the pixel density, switch to tablet UI, allow an on-screen customizable navigation bar (homescreen, multitasking, back button, and more onscreen) things like the actual vibration intensity or how loud the speakers can actually go things IOS devices will never be able to do.

      Now lastly ROMs. This is the ultimate customization, changing the actual kernel will give you literally no end to the changes you can make because its a whole new operating system. yes some might be buggy but i promise you if you download 0.01 of the IOS tweaks needed to get to an unrooted androids level of functionality then your IOS device will be very buggy and glitchy. ROMs change one device into a new device, things like google now (which is 100 times more productive than siri), better multitasking than IOS , better notifications than IOS, things so powerful like changing the boot levels of the CPU, GPU, Audio headphone amplifier, the Actual screen, the backlight, th I/O scheduler, the android logger, the charge current and more. Things IOS couldn't dream of ever reaching jailbroken or not. In no way is IOS( jailbroken or not) more customizable than a jailbroken Android running a decent ROM.

      • Erez Zukerman
        October 13, 2012 at 10:57 pm

        Wow, that's an absolutely epic comment, and what you're saying makes a ton of sense. I don't have an iPhone myself so I don't have all of this experience, but reading your comment definitely puts things in perfective. Feeling pretty happy about my Android ways at the moment. :)

        Thank you for taking the time to write such a great and informative reply! I think it's going to come in handy for many people at least as much as the post.

    • jeff
      October 13, 2012 at 1:27 am

      yes many android users do not use the full potential of their device, but most iphone users also don't jailbreak their devices either, plus were debating the devices not the users of the devices

  7. Ciprian
    August 10, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    Best thing i love about google and android is that they don't give a shit if you use APK installer (If they would give a damn the app wouldn't be on Google Play) to pirate apps and they encourage the custom rom and all the mods for the android so you could feel the full android experience.

  8. Dan Whitcomb
    July 26, 2012 at 3:57 am

    I prefer jailbroken iPhone. Custom ROM android is too tedious

  9. heath murray
    July 8, 2012 at 11:34 am

    ive done jail breaking on ios and found the only 2 things i liked about doing it was being able to have a blacklist application for blocking calls of people you dont like and telemarketers and 2 being able to install winterboard themes
    i have since switched to android and have had a crack at rooting and custom roms and have found some roms to be unstable and alot of force closing on some applications im actually be buying a new android phone next week that looks like an iphone only running android and to make it more interesting i might put the windows theme on then i can confuse the hell out of everyone also the pros on android is black lists without rooting and themes are nice and slick just my opinion

    • Erez Zukerman
      July 8, 2012 at 1:39 pm

      Hey Heath,

      Definitely an interesting perspective. And that phone does sound interesting -- what's the make and model?

      • Heath
        July 8, 2012 at 1:46 pm

        [Broken URL Removed] thats the model there the only downside is all the buttons are reversed but other than that looks cool im getting a white one

        • Erez Zukerman
          July 8, 2012 at 2:29 pm

          Haha, that's absolutely crazy! I had no idea they even make phones like that -- seems like a great way to get sued by Apple :). Tell us what it's like when you get it!

        • Heath
          July 12, 2012 at 6:29 am

          Will do ive also seen dual sim galaxy s2 ripoffs as well mostly all phones are cloned also read something about a haipad (ipad clone)

        • heath
          July 24, 2012 at 5:29 am

          so the phone turned up and ill only be using it for a spare it wont even connect to the 1 network im mainly on because its transmitting on a different mhz. battery life is poor when playing games and is only fair on calls and standby im on the lookout for a htc legend now they seem nice and sleek

        • Erez Zukerman
          July 24, 2012 at 5:54 pm

          Oh man, that's not fun to hear, but I can't say I'm too surprised... Is there any sort of warranty?

  10. Mercury
    June 12, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    Would you mind telling me what ROM is in the last image?

  11. Olafgarten
    May 29, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    The only bad thing about my ipod...

    is that it doesn't run android

    • Erez Zukerman
      May 30, 2012 at 4:43 am

      LOL :D

  12. ed
    May 25, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    One thing I didn't like about ROMs in android (custom and official) is that unless you have the time and skill to program it yourself; you will be left wanting some unique feature in another ROM that is not installed on your phone. Always.

    There are so many of them and it is nerve racking to find something you didn't like in this ROM that you liked in another (given that they are both in the same android version).

    Another is custom ROMs are never as stable as official ROMs. There are dedicated forums where I used to go to everyday to check if a new version has been released so that my camera would work, or my phone would be able to record videos, etc.

    iPhone is the opposite since there is only 5.0.x or 5.1.x or 5.x.x to think about. I don't have to think about waiting for a new os to come; all parts are working and officially supported because I'm using an official OS. I just have to update the cydia apps and thats it. worry-free life.

    • Hari
      May 27, 2012 at 5:54 am

      Worry free life? Far from it, actually. I have been to both camps and both have their fair set if worries. Since mentioned iOS as worry free, let me address that. I find that I am always a couple of iOS versions behind because the jailbreak is not yet available for the latest or it is not yet stable. Often I don't update because I am not worried that the tweak that I rely heavily on might break. I am also often behind because the backup/restore process for cydia apps, tweaks and their data is not straight forward and/or reliable. Some of these are non issues with Android custom roms but they have their own worries too. The bottom line is that you can't vr worry free either way.

      • Erez Zukerman
        May 30, 2012 at 4:44 am

        Well put, and I'm happy to see such a balanced perspective from an iOS users. If everyone could just look at their platforms of choice so objectively, iOS and Android users would get along much better :).

    • Dissentient
      June 26, 2012 at 1:39 pm

      My custom ROM (F1 GalaxyNexus on SGS2) is much more stable that official samsung ROMs. Never had any issues with it.

  13. Ksavai
    May 25, 2012 at 4:56 am

    When you just compare rooting and jailbreaking I think its one in the same thing. By both you gain access to main OS of your system.

    Now main difference comes next step.
    I feel in iOS Cydia comes with only few useful apps, Themes, ringtone etc consist of almost 90% of apps available in cydia. only few tweaks are available to increase your OS experience as ofcourse you are still playing with close iOS so not much great deal of work.

    When it comes to android, its open system, by installing custom rom you can do install many types of ROM which ever you like and by installing custom rom you can do many things like removing bloatware, improving battery life, increase in internal memory, Speed up the device, back up your apps etc etc

    So there is lot more you can do with android and iOS dont keep that scope.

    • Erez Zukerman
      May 25, 2012 at 10:18 am

      That's very true, and is one of the reasons I use Android. But the other side of the coin, as some iOS users would be quick to point out, is that you can easily mess up your device. As soon as you start tinkering with CPU governors, overclocking, undervolting, etc. -- your device can start behaving very strangely indeed.

      • Saurabh Verma
        May 25, 2012 at 12:48 pm

        Android users who are not aware of the low level functionalities of the OS should not be messing around here in the first place.

        There are enuff themes, apps, games in android to keep the goobs busy for days on end.

        Just my two cents.

      • Ksavai
        May 26, 2012 at 6:47 am

        There comes the great line - With power comes the responsibility. Its just like when normal road car driver say why you need Ferrari? You might speed up and kill yourself in accident.

      • TheoAZ
        July 10, 2012 at 11:52 pm

        Erez - if you are worried about messing up your device you should not be in this section in the first place whether or not its IOS or Android.

        It's like modifying your car, if you are afraid of voiding the warranty better leave it alone.

        • Erez Zukerman
          July 11, 2012 at 7:42 am

          I beg to differ, actually. There are lots of tweaks and mods you can do without getting into OCing, undervolting, and messing with governors.

          That said, yes, these are things I don't usually play with, for exactly that reason. I like a stable phone. :)