phones such as the iPhone is now allowable in the US according to the
US Library of Congress. However, is this something you really want to
do? I’ll give you my take on the pros and cons of jailbreaking your
iPhone so you can decide if it’s right for you.
July 26, 2010, the US Library of Congress said it was legal to
circumvent a phone’s software or firmware in order to enable lawfully
obtained software or in order to connect to an authorized wireless
telecommunications network. In short, jailbreaking your phone is no longer
a violation of law.
What exactly is jailbreaking as it relates to Apple products? The term jailbreak refers to altering the iPhone Operating System to
allow access to restricted features of the operating system as well as
allowing installation of non-Apple approved applications. Unlocking refers to the process of allowing the phone to access other cellular networks and alters the phone's baseband firmware.
Apple has been a staunch opponent of allowing tech savvy users to alter their devices and modify its iPhone operating system. As a result, an
underground network of websites, developers and hackers have formed to
help users modify their iPhone’s operating system, unlock it to allow
its use on other cellular networks, and provide another app store
(Cydia) for purchasing applications not approved by Apple for sale in
the iTunes app store.
Curious about what it takes to jailbreak your iPhone? Here is a simplified overview:
- Connect your activated iPhone via the USB cable and backup your device through iTunes.
- Download jailbreaking software specifically for your device and the iPhone OS.
There are several out there such as Spirit, QuickPwn, and Pwnage Tool, etc.
Two key things to note: First, jailbreaking and unlocking your phone
have traditionally been done with the same tool. Recent changes in
unlocking have made it more difficult and as a result many of the
software tools will now only do one of these tasks. Be sure to download
the right tool for the job. Secondly, you’ll want to be sure to download
the tool that will work for your version of the iPhone OS. The software fixes for new iPhone firmware versions lag
behind the newest release from Apple as the hackers need time to create
- Depending on the tool, you may need to download the original iPhone firmware version you are trying to jailbreak.
the jailbreak or unlock software tool and follow the instructions. Your
device may reboot several times depending on the software tool. Some of
the tools require your iPhone to be put into DFU (Device Firmware Mode) mode, which requires
pressing, holding and releasing the power and home buttons in sequence for a series of seconds. It can be tricky getting your phone into
and out of this DFU mode.
- Your iPhone should now be jailbroken and also have the
Cydia app installed for downloading iPhone apps and system packages not in the app store.
A complete tutorial on jailbreaking your iPhone is beyond the scope of this blog. Enter "jailbreak iPhone x.x.x" (where x.x.x is the version of the iPhone OS you want to jailbreak) into your search engine to find links to additional resources and more information. Some examples:
Example of ScreenRecorder app available in Cydia store:
- You now have access
to many iPhone apps that were not allowed in the iTunes app store. Several of
these provide new features not available in the standard OS or Apple
approved apps. However, many of the really powerful features such as
multitasking, customized wallpaper, folders, video, cut & paste, and MMS
texting have been added to newer versions of the iPhone OS.
- You have access
to undocumented APIs. This is a developer feature most people will not
take advantage of but, for developers it’s a nice bonus. For example,
once your iPhone is jailbroken you can access video out features of the phone and
capture or project the screen video. However, developers still cannot
include these undocumented APIs in their apps if they want them approved for the
iTunes apps store. Also, Apple can at any time remove these undocumented
APIs leaving the developer with apps that may no longer run correctly.
provides the ability to switch carriers, but remember iPhones use GSM
cellular technology so you can only switch to another GSM-based carrier.
In the US, those carriers are AT&T and T-Mobile.
- You can become a part of the underground, anti-Apple iPhone movement and explore new features and break free of Apple's restrictions.
exposure to security risks and viruses. The only viruses reported so
far on iPhones have been jailbroken and with no policing of apps outside
the iTunes app store, your phone can be much more susceptible to
- It will void
your phone warranty and disqualify your ability to access Apple customer support. Just
because it’s legal doesn’t mean Apple has to support your modified
phone--and they have already publicly stated they will not!
versions lag behind version releases from Apple. Once jailbroken, you
become reliant on the hackers to crack and produce an updated
jailbroken version of the new release. So, how quickly a jailbroken version is made
available is up to the hackers and their ability to solve any new
anti-jailbreaking techniques Apple may chose to implement.
- Constantly making sure you don't auto-update to new firmware through iTunes. If you forget and update your phone through iTunes your phone will no longer be jailbroken or worse yet, may not work correctly. Also, new versions of iTunes may also cause problems for a jailbroken phone, so you need to keep track of the correct version of iTunes you are using to sync your iPhone.
So, should you jailbreak your iPhone? I'd say if you have an old phone and you're technically savvy, go for it. If it's your only cell phone and you rely on it for stable daily use, it's probably not a very good idea. Personally I do have an old iPhone 3G and have explored my inner geek by jailbreaking it. My iPhone 4 that I use every day? No way!
Does the fact that jailbreaking is now legal make you more or less likely to do it? Are you worried at all about still violating your phone's warranty?
If you're curious about all the new features in the new iPhone 4 and iOS4, check out our upcoming books: My iPhone 4th Edition
and Using iPhone