With a major release launching tomorrow, I wanted to take this time to put all the fears or myths that people have with jailbreaking to rest. While it’s evolved from an incredibly difficult and semi-pointless process to where it is today, lots of people are still worried or even oblivious to its existence.
Jailbreaking is done by using software on a computer to take advantage of an exploit on the device and install a gateway application. This app will allow the implementation of 3rd party code to change the way an iOS device looks or operates. It used to be an extremely complicated process in its early days (some versions being 30+ steps), but the software of today simplifies things by only requiring one click. While this operation is extremely safe, if set up incorrectly afterwards it can cause minor issues. The days of ‘bricking’ devices however is long gone, as many safety measures have been put in place that will cause a safe mode to initiate if an error occurs.
I began jailbreaking with a 1st generation iPod Touch in April of 2008. At that time the latest version of the software was iPhone OS (now iOS) 1.1.2. I read online that these devices could be modified, and having more spare time than anything I bought one solely for that purpose. I learned how to do it, and enabled the gateway app ‘Installer’. This app was supported all the way until 2009 when a new program launched called Icy. At that time another program called Cydia has just been unveiled, which now reigns as the sole option for installing 3rd party content.
This process became a hobby of mine. When I purchased the iPhone 3GS, it became more main stream and an opportunity emerged. In my opinion, jailbreaking didn’t become a trend until iOS 3.1.2 after the release of Blackra1n in late 2009. After the iPad and iPhone 4 launched in 2010, enough of a demand appeared to start a side business. At $30 per hour and a half session, I was doing around 8 appointments a week. The meeting included set up and tutorials. By teaching the process and how to benefit from it, users would feel confident and optimistic about the results compared to others who charged less and didn’t explain what they had done. This continued on for about 4 months until I pursued other options, and only continued performing the service for friends.
With the iPhone 4’s release featuring a Retina Display, all of the content was completely redesigned. Detail in app icons, wallpapers, and more were taken to a whole new level. This continued throughout the iPhone 4S’s lifespan, as new tools became available. One trend that is clearly visible throughout major iOS releases is the inclusion of jailbreak tweaks. Apple carefully notices design and functionality trends through the OS lifespan and repackages it to include in the next major update. This has been the case with Folders, Multitasking, Notification Center, Control Center, and much more. Even Apple’s biggest feature – the AppStore – was created from Installer’s impact on the device. Apple originally envisioned developers to create WebApps via Safari during the iPhone’s initial release.
As new features are unveiled and added, crafty developers have found ways to make it even better. One of the longest running apps is Bitesms. This app enhances the default messaging application significantly. I’ve owned a license that I got during a sale back in 2010, and have been able to transfer it to each new device I’ve purchased. With the iPhone 5s Apple introduced the Touch ID sensor, but limited it to unlocking the device and purchase authorization through the iTunes stores. Developers have released enhancements for Touch ID to simulate a home button press, lock individual apps via finger print scanning, and set various system actions to the sensor. Creativity such as this is why I continue jailbreaking my devices.
With the release of the iPhone 5 and it’s larger screen, more options became available in the design field. One of my favourite tweaks from last generation was Dashboard X. This allowed widgets to be placed on the home screen for quick access to system information and toggles, opposed to digging through the menu tree to locate it. The iPhone 5’s display allowed for another row of icons to be used alongside the widgets, compared to the limited screen real estate from the iPhone 4S.
One of the major questions to jailbreaking is about warranties, and device safety. Modifying the software does indeed void the warranty, but restoring the device in iTunes will revert it back to factory settings. This renders the process completely untraceable should you need to get it serviced. While it does require a bit of customizing to get just right for your tastes, taking the time with the help of an expert can really change the way you use the device.
A major component unable to be ignored in jailbreaking is the creation of jobs. Many developers have risen up and released incredible enhancements to the platform, in turn earning financial rewards from those products. There are many tweaks priced at $0.99 or even $1.99 that have sold tens of thousands of copies. While piracy is extremely evident in this category, sales are still flourishing for good quality software. Another field where jobs have been created is in the media. Dominant websites such as iDownloadBlog and ModMyi have gathered communities together to talk about releases, swap stories, and help each other out. It truly cannot be avoided as there’s even a large following of users who will only upgrade their device once a new jailbreak is made available.
The point of jailbreaking for me has always been about personalization. Apple has strict systems in place for the way their devices operate in terms of functionality and design. While other platforms have different options to customize the experience, every Apple device in most ways look the same. This process allows for each user to share their personality across a unique design, or layout. Each time Apple releases a new generation of software, I always wonder what trends they will adapt and integrate. As long as the software continues to be updated, I will customize my devices and take advantage of all the great enhancements that are available.
To close out this article, I’d like to share one of the best things in my opinion about jailbreaking.
*Note – I have ceased jailbreaking as of iOS 8, as Apple’s stock software has become complete enough for my needs to not require the process anymore. This article has been kept in it’s original form as a memory of the designs and capabilities it once had.
(Originally published April 1, 2014)