You see the term mentioned a lot online, especially on Mac and iPhone forums. But what does it mean to jailbreak an iPhone and should you do it? As someone who has done it multiple times, I’ll talk you through what jailbreaking is and the pros and cons of doing it are. I hope it helps!
What is jailbreaking?
First a little anatomy lesson. As you already know, the iPhone is manufactured by Apple and uses a closed operating system called iOS. It is locked down tight, with very little the average user can do to make serious changes to how their phone works. That is great because it enhances security and ensures compatibility across the board. It is bad because you lose a lot of freedom to use your device how you like.
Android on the other hand uses an open operating system. The benefit of that is that you can do pretty much what you like with your phone. The downside is that Android developers have to work a whole lot harder to keep things secure.
Jailbreaking overcomes that closed system by loading a modified operating system onto your iPhone. It can still look and feel much like the original iOS but will allow much more freedom in how you configure and use your phone.
Apple does not like jailbreaking and doing it will void your warranty. It not illegal though and you are free to modify your phone as you please, just don’t expect any help when you turn up at your local Genius Bar for help.
Benefits of jailbreaking an iPhone
There are a number of significant benefits of jailbreaking your iPhone. They include:
The ability to load more third-party apps. Cydia is a jailbroken app store that allows you to load apps that iTunes doesn’t stock. It, and others like it include hundreds of games, apps and other goodies. You can also run ad blockers and video rippers, both of which are not available through iTunes.
Interact with hardware normally off limits. Apple blocks apps from interacting with Siri and other elements of your iPhone hardware and software. Jailbreaking allows access to those resources. This allows you to use game emulators, to freely tether your iPhone, change cell providers and more.
Customize your iPhone as you see fit. While standard iPhones do allow quite a degree of freedom in personalizing your phone, we always want more. Jailbreaking allows much more freedom over how your phone looks, handles and feels. Use something like Winterboard to customize every aspect of your phone.
Drawbacks of jailbreaking an iPhone
Like everything, every positive action has an equal and opposite reaction. There are downsides to jailbreaking your iPhone and they include:
Reduced security. The biggest downside of jailbreaking is the increased risk of malware and poorly written apps. While the close system of iOS is a pain, it is also designed to protect you and your phone. That goes away to a degree if you jailbreak. Rather than being able to depend on Apple to provide security, you are essentially trusting the developer to do the right thing.
Compromised system updates. Jailbroken iPhones cannot download iOS updates automatically without overwriting the jailbreak. Neither will many apps automatically update from iTunes without trying to do the same or erroring. The entire update process is made more difficult and can often mean manually updating everything.
Reduces system stability. Say what you like about iOS being locked down but it does deliver a very stable operating environment (most of the time). The jailbroken OS are usually pretty stable but the same cannot be said for some of the apps available through Cydia or other alternative app stores.
Should you jailbreak your iPhone or not?
There is no right answer to this question as we all use our phones for different things and want different things from it. I will say that if you’re at all concerned about security, jailbreaking is not for you. Neither is it suitable for a work phone or a phone you depend on for important things. While most of the jailbroken OS are quite stable, the quality of apps can vary greatly. A good many of them didn’t get onto iTunes for good reason!
If you use your iPhone purely for leisure, like to experiment, or you want more freedom or to use your phone how you see fit, jailbreaking could be the answer. It is a great way to learn how a phone OS is put together and how programs and apps interact with each other. It is also an opportunity to enjoy your phone your way without being controlled by a corporation.