Jailbreak innovation: still the future of iOS
At WWDC 2011 Apple once again "borrowed" a lot of great ideas from the Jailbreak community and gave them to iOS 5, including lock screen info, notifications, WiFi sync, volume buttons to take pictures, and a lot more. That's not a bad thing -- I even asked them to do exactly that this year. Whether you jailbreak or not, whether you realize it or not, the jailbreak community benefits all iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad users -- pure and jailbreak alike.
Follow along to find out why.
For years, the common argument against Jailbreak (aside from the DMCA, from which Jailbreak was granted an exception last year) was stability -- it could make your iPhone buggier, slower, or crash more. The jailbreak argument is typically functionality -- it could let your iPhone do far more than Apple does out of the box. The great news, and the real secret here is, everyone benefits from Jailbreak.
Jailbreak to iOS
Over the years, several jailbreak applications and tweaks have slowly trickled down the pipe and found themselves becoming a core function of iOS at some point or another. For old school jailbreakers, they'll remember Installer fondly. Installer just recently made its way back to iOS as well. It truly was the first official App Store. I remember downloading games and programs to my iPhone first gen through installer on iOS 1.x via Installer and AppTap. Then Apple came along with iOS 2.x and the official App Store. Installer even had page dots when you accumulated more than one page of apps. This was an idea that went straight to iOS 2.0. It wasn't a similar concept, it simply appeared in iOS 2.x with the exact same functionality.
While Apple practices a pretty rigorous app approval process, the jailbreak app stores continues to allow developers to submit applications that Apple would not allow in the official App Store. A lot of would be rejects seem to find their way into iOS as core features later on.
Prime examples of this are jailbreak apps such as MobileNotifier, which looks strikingly like the notification system Apple showed off at WWDC 2011. Coincidentally, Apple recently hired Peter Hajas as an iOS and frameworks employee.
Other developers such as Greg Hughes, the creator of Wifi Sync, have also seen their applications later crop up in iOS. His iteration of Wifi Sync is very simliar to Apple's newly announced iCloud wireless sync and backup feature that's slated to appear this Fall in iOS 5. His version of the app was rejected by Apple previously.
Creativity and innovation
Since the release of the first generation iPhone, the mobile industry has come a long way. A huge part of that was due to the fact that the first generation iPhone was not like anything currently on the market. It lit a fire underneath other manufacturers such as Palm and RIM (ok, maybe not RIM so much). We also got Android out of Google which has become one of the hottest smartphone platforms on the market.
The jailbreak community is full of young and talented developers that more often than not, land jobs at these companies or create programs and tweaks that eventually become the heart and soul of each respective platform. Whether Apple gives it to us or not, the jailbreak community always seems to find a way to make it possible. I have yet to see a company produce a device that meets every consumer's wants and needs. Some may argue that's why we have choice. While that's very true, we still crave a mobile OS that will fill our every need. While that may not yet be possible, independent developers strive to innovate and provide unique solutions through other channels. These innovations eventually crop up in official releases which are then built upon even further.
Jailbreak developers have the ability to create individual solutions. Apple has the ability to refine those even further and produce a product that benefits mainstream users in a way that even the most novice user can understand. So while jailbreak may not be for everyone, a lot of the innovation and creativity is already done by the time Apple decides to refine it and slap an "i" in front of it.
And the cycle continues...
Even if iOS 5 has everything you could possibly want in a mobile OS, next year Steve Jobs will walk on stage again and unveil that "next great thing", and you'll want it. Odds are, the jailbreakers out there already have it in their hands. We are, in some ways, beta testers. David Ashman, creator of LockInfo, has already stated he'll be back next year with an even greater version of LockInfo. Independent developers won't take it lying down. They'll simply bow and accept the challenge laid in front of them with more excitement and motivation than the last time around.
So whether or not you plan to jailbreak the next iteration of iOS, you can rest assured Steve Jobs and all the folks up at Cupertino already have.