This is a guest post by Scott Morgan.
The concept of “jailbreaking” an iPhone is about as old as the iPhone itself. iPhones and other Apple iOS products are locked down at the operating system level so only Apple can determine which applications and networks iPhone users can access. Enterprising programming types decided shortly after iPhone’s release that they’d rather determine how they would use their iPhones themselves and have been formulating jailbreaking methods and unauthorized applications ever since.
Jailbreaking an iPhone is legal and can be done with simple apps like Jailbreakme, Absinthe or software available from the “iPhone Dev-Team” hacker group. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act backs individuals’ right to jailbreak an iPhone, so what are the risks? Here’s a look at the pros and cons of jailbreaking so you can decide whether it’s right for you.
Network Access: The iPhone was exclusive to AT&T from its release in 2007 until February of 2011. This led to the original primary reason for jailbreaking: access to other networks. While the iPhone is now also available from Sprint and Verizon, this remains a popular reason to jailbreak, considering there are other popular networks like Tmobile with no iPhone access.
More Apps: Apple has stringent rules about what its apps can and can’t do and how much an iPhone user can alter its interface. Do you want to any of the following?
- Use your iPhone as a mobile wireless hotspot?
- Download YouTube videos?
- Use Google Voice?
There are no apps for any of these. There are, however, unauthorized apps that accomplish all this and more. This makes jailbreaking an attractive option for anyone looking to extend their iPhone’s abilities.
Keep it Going: When you buy a new iPhone, your old one is essentially now an iPad Touch. Go ahead and jailbreak it, load it with apps and have some fun with it instead of throwing it in a drawer.
Why Stay in your Cell?
Warranty: Apple warns that any tampering or modification is a violation of its license agreement, so jailbreaking voids your warranty. The Apple Store Geniuses will turn you away if you walk in looking for help with a malfunctioning iPhone that has clearly been jailbroken.
Security: Do you trust the person on the other side of the world creating unauthorized apps not to plant spyware on your iPhone? If you trust their honesty, do you also believe in programming ability? There’s no approval process for unauthorized apps, so “black hat” hackers can release malware disguised as apps and unskilled programmers can accidentally “brick” your phone.
No Updates: Apple doesn’t like jailbreaking. iOS updates can at best overwrite jailbroken phones or, at worst, brick them entirely. To be safe, users of jailbroken iPhones turn off updates. This secures the phone but limits access to important security and device updates.