It used to be that if you wanted advanced functionality on your iPhone, you’d jailbreak it. Cydia lets you customize the Control Center, alter the behavior of your browser, use the camera from within any app, and much, much more.
But these days Apple regularly introduces many popular tweaks as part of the next version of iOS. The recently discovered KeyRaider malware also proves that jailbreaking makes your phone more vulnerable to data theft.
So should you still jailbreak your iPhone? Is it safe? Is it worth it? Let’s take a look.
The Benefits of Jailbreaking
There are still benefits to jailbreaking — customizing the iOS interface is very appealing to a lot of people. Want your notifications to show up in a different way? You can use Badgomizer. Want a Control Center and app switcher combo? Auxo 3 will do it for you. You can totally change the look (and feel) of your iPhone.
You can insert your email address anywhere with a quick double-tap of the @ button thanks to DoubleCut. DetailedBatteryUsage lets you see interesting stats on how you use your phone’s power. EqualizerEverywhere adds a universal equalizer to your phone. And you can reduce the amount of sleep disruption due to blue light with F.lux.
These are all pretty benign. There are also more nefarious uses of jailbreaking, like getting paid apps for free or using an iPhone as a Wi-Fi cracking tool. Of course, not everyone uses their phone to pirate apps or use hacking tools — but those who do require a jailbreak.
Does Cydia Still Make iOS Better?
Cydia, one of the most popular ways to install apps on a jailbroken iPhone, was the go-to way to improve your iPhone experience for a long time. Apple’s “walled garden” approach keeps the App Store — and much of the under-the-hood workings of iOS — very much locked down, and Cydia opens up a lot of options.
However, Apple has been incorporating many of the popular tweaks found in Cydia directly into iOS. For example, iOS 8 introduced interactive notifications, custom keyboards, wider-ranging Touch ID uses, and the “Hey, Siri” functionality. All of these things had previously been accessed through Cydia apps.
iOS 9 also includes a number of features that have been popular tweaks, like overlaid videos, easier text selection via swiping on the keyboard, a battery-saving mode, split-screen multitasking on the iPad, and more versatile Quick Reply notifications.
Apple is definitely taking notice of which Cydia tweaks are the most popular and making efforts to incorporate them into iOS. It’s in their best interests to curb jailbreaking, and if users really like a feature, it only makes sense to add it to iOS to reduce the need for jailbroken tweaks. It’s just good business sense.
Obviously, Cydia offers a lot more tweaks than Apple could ever hope to impement. And there will always be things that jailbreak-only apps will be able to offer (like things Apple is ideologically opposed to). iOS may become more “open” but it will never be as open as Android, and there will always be things that you just can’t do by default.
Cydia and other app repositories let you do those things, but the number of tweaks that they have a monopoly on is getting smaller with each new release of iOS.
With the expected features in iOS 9, this grip loosens a little further. Is Cydia still the way to get the best iOS experience? Unless you have very specific needs or wants for your phone, it’s probably just not worth the effort.
Security Concerns with Jailbreaking
As you can’t download updates or security patches without reverting to a non-jailbroken state, you could be opening yourself up to a lot of security threats (yes, even on an iPhone) by jailbreaking. When a new vulnerability is detected, Apple fixes it and releases a patch, but hackers and data thieves know that not everyone runs their updates when they should and they continue to target that same vulnerability.
Earlier this month, a piece of malware called KeyRaider targeted jailbroken iPhones and stole Apple accounts and passwords from over 225,000 users. That’s a lot of stolen data, and there’s potential for a lot of havoc, money lost, and identities stolen because of it. This malware was distributed through third-party Cydia repositories, so only jailbroken iPhones were at risk. According to Palo Alto Networks, this is the largest loss of Apple data due to malware, and it was all because users chose to jailbreak their devices.
Now that KeyRaider has been outed, it’s easy enough to redownload iOS and go back to a non-jailbroken phone, but many people lost their information long before KeyRaider was widely reported. These sorts of things often go undetected for a long time before people become aware of them and take precautions. If your Apple ID has been stolen, it might only be a matter of time before someone can unearth huge amounts of information about you, access email accounts, wipe your devices and other scary worst case scenarios.
Jailbreaking: Just Not Worth It
With Apple’s constant feature innovation and the imminent security threats present to jailbroken iPhones, jailbreaking just isn’t worth the risk anymore. It used to be that you could add a huge amount of functionality that significantly improved the iPhone experience from third-party apps, but iOS has come a long way, and it’s gotten a lot better. Plus you’ll be able to make additional UI tweaks after the release of iOS 9 with apps like Extensify, which doesn’t require jailbreaking.
Do you think it’s still worth jailbreaking your iPhone? Are the benefits worth the risks? Or do you think iOS has been improved to the point where Cydia just isn’t needed anymore? Share your thoughts below!
Image credits: William Hook via Flickr.com.