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.

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Allyson Kazmucha

Senior editor for iMore. I can take apart an iPhone in less than 6 minutes. I also like coffee and Harry Potter more than anyone really should.

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Reader comments

Jailbreak innovation: still the future of iOS


"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."
Very strong statement, very good point.
On another note, another thing we seem to be getting is free Personal Hotspot a la MiWi seeing that it is free in the CDMA iOS 5 beta.

Jailbreak is the best R&D Apple doesn't have to buy. (Though they should have found some way to compensate Hughes if they were going to reject him and even appropriate his icon desing.)

You never know with Apple, they might have already had a beta of wifi sync thus not wanting to approve an app that they were going to build into ios already. If you think about it, they work on a lot of stuff years before they release it, I mean how long have we been hearing about the NC data center and only this month got confirmation on what it's for? Just me two cents...

Maybe, but you are granting an awful lot of doubt when the timeline plainly stinks. The facts of the matter are:
1) Hughes submitted app
2) Apple examined Hughes code
3) Apple rejected it
4) Apple implemented their own version with similar features, functions, and even iconography
Apple has aggressively gone after people who have done a heckuva lot less than this...

It's iOS 5 jailbroken. The first row is the official weather widget, the second row is from the jailbreak, and the third row is an official mail notification.

The implication is that Apple wouldn't think to add these features if the jailbreakers didn't do them first. And that's a little silly.
Apple will add everything that their users want that isn't at odds with Apple making money. Eventually. That's the key - Apple will do it all, but it may take them quite some time. The jailbreakers do things faster because they don't have the same concerns about stability, profitability, security, compatibility, quality, etc etc.
I do think it's possible that Apple monitors what the jailbreakers are up to, and benefits from 'free R & D'.

Well, now that Cydia is official and legal, why don't Cydia developers just patent their ideas, seriously, like lodsys except find a better way to sue apple over copyright infringement, or charge them thousand for a license.

I just want to say that we should give our support and appreciation to the developers who came up with apps that leads and finally being copied by Apple and slapped with a "i" in front.
Ever since I jailbroken my iPhone, I love it even more. This really help to differentiate from the other phones like Blackberry and Andriod.
Thank you developers from Jailbreak community!

yer i think ios 5 should get to be known as the jailbreak update notifications (theres no wireless syncing if it has to be 2 metres from your mac then its no different) widgets all on the cydia for ages