The truth about jailbreaking and the jailbreak community

Lately we've been seeing a lot of rumors about iOS 5 and whether over-the-air updates will affect the ability to jailbreak. Regardless, I think there are some misconceptions about the Jailbreak community being spread around the blogsphere lately, even as link-bait or and well-intentioned rebuttals that take the bait and provide the links.

This isn't that. I'm not going to reward negative attention seeking. I'm just going to reiterate why I think jailbreak greatly benefits all iOS users, Jailbreak and otherwise, and trust people are smart enough and critical enough to read all the opinions and decide for themselves.

Innovation

First off, the jailbreak community is extremely innovative. I'll go out on a limb here as I have many times before and insist that there are Apple employees walking around Cupertino with jailbroken iPhones in hand. Why you ask? Because they'd be stupid not to keep up with all the bright minds and ideas floating around the jailbreak community.

We already know Apple hired Peter Hajas, the creator of MobileNotifier, right before the announcement of iOS 5.

We can debate all day why Apple made that move but I personally see a striking similarity between the new iOS 5 notification system and Peter Hajas' design for MobileNotifier. Notification Center gestures are also quite similar to the InfoShade feature of the popular jailbreak app, LockInfo.

Free R&D

Let's face it, the jailbreak community has had a lot of great ideas. A lot of these same ideas end up trickling down into later iterations of iOS. Sometimes Apple manages to make them their own. Other times, they are blatantly copied, like Wifi Sync. Greg Hughes, the creator of the jailbreak version of Wifi Sync, had submitted his version of the app to the official App Store well over a year ago. It was rejected and then quickly found its way into Cydia. A year later, we see Apple unveil their version of wireless syncing. This time, they didn't even bother to change the icon. What you see on the left is Greg Hughes' Wifi Sync icon compared to Apple's. See any similarity?

Apple is a secretive company. They can't and won't publicly test future versions of iOS years in advance. With Jailbreak, they get hundreds of thousands of people testing all sorts of apps, interfaces, and experiences, and Apple can see which ones work, and cherry pick all the best and brightest and most successful ideas.

Warranty out

It has been implied on several occasions that jailbreaking will completely screw up your device and Apple will be stuck eating the cost when you bring it in for warranty repair.

I really can't begin to point out how many things are wrong with that statement. Let's start with the obvious.... Apple will not service a jailbroken iPhone. They will simply turn you away. I do not know many jailbreakers that aren't aware of this fact. That is their right and jailbreakers understand this.

Next, there is nothing a simple restore won't wipe away. I have never seen an iPhone, iPad, or iPod rendered useless from a jailbreak gone wrong. I've seen some that get stuck in a recovery loop but sticking it into DFU mode and doing a stock restore always fixes the issue. I run a small tech company locally and we offer jailbreak and unlock services. We also troubleshoot tons of devices a week. We actually receive just as many users with stock issues as we do with jailbreak issues if we want to be honest here.

Freedom of choice

I can't speak for the entire jailbreak community but I can speak for myself and those I know that jailbreak. I do not pressure others into jailbreaking. I don't want to and frankly I don't need to. We may joke about it around the forums and have #TeamJailbreak and #TeamPure battles during podcasts but that's as far as it goes. In fact, I am always hesitant when someone asks me to help them jailbreak due to the amount of questions I'll probably get for the next several weeks. I know many others who sometimes feel the same. I'm not saying I'm never willing to help but I do believe users who want to attempt jailbreaking should at least have some basic knowledge or technical understanding of iOS.

Bottom line, if someone sees Jailbreak, they know if it interests them and if they want to try it, and they know if it looks difficult or stressful and want no part of it. To think otherwise gives them far too little credit.

Jailbreakers buy software too

Sadly, I can't say piracy doesn't happen. It does. On iOS. With music and movies. It happens. But it doesn't mean all jail breakers steal any more than it means all PC users steal (PCs come already jailbroken, that makes it even easier, right?).

Most of the Jailbreak users purchase apps just like stock users do. They not only purchase applications from the App Store like the rest of the population, but from Cydia as well.

There are tons of developers that will tell you that jailbreakers that steal apps make up a very tiny portion of their user base. Ironically, a lot of the jailbreakers I know end up being some of the biggest sticklers about not stealing applications and money out of developers' pockets.

Why? Because most of them are developers as well.

Apple benefits in the end

Not only does Apple get a pretty large user base to test on, they have an extremely talented group of developers to keep their eye on. I don't think Peter Hajas will be the last jailbreak developer to join Apple. Nor will iOS 5 be the last iteration of Apple's latest and greatest to "borrow" ideas from the jailbreak community.

I do not see Apple going out of their way to block out jailbreakers in future iterations of iOS. Will they close exploits? Sure they will. For the safety and privacy of their users in general. The jailbreak community will always find a way in. If it's coded by a person, it can be cracked by a person. And the game will continue. Until people grow bored or Apple gives us all the functionality we desire.

The main goal of the jailbreak community has always been to provide more options to power users who would like more control than Apple would like to give us. In return, we may deal with a little bug here and there or a few resprings. If you choose not to deal with that, that's okay too.

But going against the grain doesn't make this community evil or snide. It just makes us different. We are aware that we make up a very small portion of iOS users. We're okay with that and never pretend to be the majority.

We don't need to use link bait in order for Apple to pay attention to us. You can safely bet they already are.

Have something to say about this story? Share your comments below! Need help with something else? Submit your question!

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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The truth about jailbreaking and the jailbreak community

63 Comments

I have read countless, quite frankly mindless, jailbreak articles. Not to say they all are a waste of space and time but very few refrain from letting their bias overtake their article. You, did this and for that I commend you for that.

Thanks for the article, but I was hoping someone could shed some light on the device's stability after a jailbreak - either just with the basics, or after a multitude of tweaks made. I always get the response of "it's worth it" but I'm convinced it's biased.
I have not been a condoner of jailbreaking except for hacktivating hand-me-downs iPhone 2Gs for my children to lock it down, and but I'm considering it more each day on my iPhone 4.

Lack of stability was exactly the reason I gave up on jailbreaking, and I only used well-known, "respectable" jailbreak apps and functions. Maybe stability problems aren't universal, but they were problematic enough for me to give it up.

Sometimes I swear people jailbreak and jus fInd things wrong with there phone all of sudden. You see all these posts my battery is drainin faster my phone is slow etc, just for them to realize they were imagining it.
I think it's all in your heads and you jus create these problems mentally because you already think before hand it's going to be buggy and slower and it's mental. With iPhone 4 and iPad 2 better processor jailbreak doesn't effect it negatively.

i think w/ the faster iphones, 3GS and up... stability has gotten a lot better, i still use a 3G, it is jailbroken, but sometimes it crashes but we all know that ios 4 was pure shit to begin with on the 3g... it was crashing even b4 it was jailbroken, even the native apps like safari/maps/mail would make the phone crawl. then came the 4.3 update... now normally the update did speed things up, but not enough to still make it not frustrating. but when i jailbroke it and disabled multitasking the phone was def a lot better. it would still hiccup here and there but honestly it def made the phone better in my situation.
jailbreaking a phone is always a choice, you aren't forced to do so, it's just certain biased non informed people/sites say it screws everything up.
think of jailbreaking as a plugin for firefox, sometimes they work sometimes they don't, adblock doesn't always get rid of every single ad for me but i live with it.

"...i still use a 3G, it is jailbroken... but when i jailbroke it and disabled multitasking the phone was def a lot better."
You jailbroke your 3G and disabled multitasking? MultiTasking is not, and will never be available on a 3G unless you jailbreak. So that is definitely not the reason it was slow before the JB. In fact according to Apple the reason that the 3G does not get multitasking is because of speed/resource issues.

I personally jailbreak my 3G which was handed down to me, because I need to unlock it for using it in Israel.
It's annoying Apple doesn't do that for all old iPhones. I had my wifes 3Gs legally unlocked here by the service provider, all it takes is a update to Apple's servers and on the next sync it's unlocked.
AT&T is clearly forcing people to be unable to resell their phones to non-AT&T customers, thereby just creating more junk instead of a living 2nd hand market. In comparison the jailbreak community allows for a longer reuse of devices in the second hand market making earth a greener place.

"legally unlocked here by the service provider" so you want to say that AT&T was willing to unlock your out of contract phone, they say they do not have the knowledge or capability. I do understand that any other service provider in the world does it for a small fee or free as all they need is to whitelist your IMEI (so much for extra $450 for factory unlock phone)

That's nice and all, but ultimately, the only reasons someone might jailbreak would be either they want a level of customization or they want to implement a feature that Apple does not allow. In the beginning, I was on board with that, but with each new version of iOS, Apple has added features that I wanted but could only find in jailbreak. Assuming iOS 5 works as advertised, there are no longer features that I care about that I can't get on a stock iPhone (WiFi sync and LockInfo were the last piece of the puzzle for me, and Apple's implementation does what I want it to). So I can't think of a single reason for me to jailbreak anymore.
So good luck to ya!

I wouldn't JB if iOS has these features.
Quick reply for SMS/MMS. (BiteSMS & iRealSMS)
Quick compose for SMS. (BiteSMS & iRealSMS)
Better folder support. (FolderEnhancer)
Option to remove the recent list from the multitasking bar. (Switchermod)
Option to lock any app. (locktopus)
Stop the AppStore closing when I hit buy. (Stayopen)
Option to dim the screen before locking. (ScreenDimmer)
This is why I Jailbreak, as these features are a must for me, on my iPhone4 & iPad. (bar SMS stuff on my iPad)
I also have RetinaPad & Fullforce installed on my iPad.

I would encourage you to watch the "Everything is a Remix series of videos (http://www.everythingisaremix.info/). They illustrate how no idea is completely novel. They build on what came before it. What you cal "copycat" I call adapting existing ideas in new ways or in new contexts. That is innovation.

I've been jailbroken twice, once on iOS 1, and then again on iOS 4. iOS 1 was useless, and had zero functionality, so a jailbreak was a must. I didn't really see the point on iOS 4, and it really screwed up on me twice. When iOS 5 hits I think there will be not much point for 90% of people.

I'd love to know where all these legit users are at really, myself.. I don't know a single iPhone user who isn't jailbroke. And this is in a small hick town in Canada.

i think that everyone benefits from the jailbreak community.
The jailbrake community is a third out-of-the-box eye for Apple. They see what users most want or dislike about ios but also see how others would provide a solution, so they can even make it a better one.
The users, because good stuff will eventually becomes part of iOS.
Apple sees also where the security holes are in iOS (because jailbreakers apply a jailbreak via a security hole).
And third... the jailbreak app developers will benefit because their ideas will become a standard part of iOS. I think they would be honored.

Excellent article. I can't imagine my iPhone 4 without Jailbreak. It's a flattering but sad point that Apple steals so many ideas from developers in the Jailbreak community.

while im not telling people to try this, ive returned my jailbroken phone to apple before and they didn't seem to care. i had to return my phone for a home button that no longer worked. i had lock info right on the screen and the guy just gave me a new phone.

I have no doubt that all jailbreaks are undoable. But, I considered that to be a big fork in the road, only for the fact that I have tons of apps installed that I've customized/setup and use regularly, not to mention all the games that I have made progress with. So, if I were to jailbreak, for example, subsequent backups will include evidence of a jailbreak which is not kosher at the Genius Bar and now some apps that just don't like jailbreakers. And, if I were to either experience instability further on down the line, which I had before, whether it be something stupid like a hack I didn't want or some normal feature starts to go haywire (read above poster who said his device lost the ability to vibrate), or if I were to restore prior to a jailbreak, I'm going to have to backtrack all the way to before the jailbreak, or just give up and build up my iPhone from scratch, settings and all.
I guess you can't have your cake and eat it, too.

Genius Bar does not have the ability to go into your file system to see anything about jailbreak or otherwise.
If you need to bring it to apple-restore and you are fine.

Great post and the neutrality is the best part. Couldn't have said it better myself !

I'm constantly surprised nobody mentions pwnTunes when they talk about iOS 5 and the need, or lack of, to jailbreak. iTunes is awful on a windows system.

The bit about Apple blatantly ripping off wifi sync really needs to stop being put out as such grand truth. Wireless syncing isn't new, for Apple or Hughes. And the icon? Give me a break, it's the universal symbols for wifi and syncing, arranged in practically the only way possible for a square icon. You're giving both Hughes and Apple too much credit here. I could wirelessly sync my WM6 phone 5 years ago.

Spot on. Enough already about Wireless Sync being "ripped off". Of course it was going to come, and the icon is obvious. Why not say that Hughes ripped off Apple's icons for sync and WiFi???

You mean like the universal symbols for a phone icon Apple is so viciously arguing with Samsung over? Oh and contacts and a few others too right? Think about what you just typed. As an iPhone 4 owner even I can say that Apple has gotten plain stupid with these lawsuits and patent claims.

I think software patents are generally stupid, and shouldn't be handed out as much as they are, but Apple defending patents they have received is not the same as saying they ripped off one very unoriginal idea from a single developer. Again, wifi sync isn't new, it's been around longer than iPhone has. The idea, execution, and icon are all unoriginal enough to be completely forgettable. Apple isnt innovating by bringing it to iOS. They're simply filling a function that people have requested. Hughes deserves as much credit as Microsoft, Google, and countless other wireless syncing device makers.

RetinaPad probably won't happen. Apple would prefer devs just create universal apps, the 2x thing was a temporary solution to make more apps usable on iPad, I doubt it's an issue that ranks high on Apple's radar

By the way, WebOS has it's own "jailbreak" community, and it works just fine with over-the-air OS updates. It can be done.

Awesome article Allyson, well said! I've always thought of jailbreaking as somewhat innovative, but can easily risk a users' iDevice, especially if these users aren't fully aware of the capabilities and risks of jailbreaking. However, reading your article has somewhat made things more clear to me, even though the facts mentioned in the article are from your own perspective rather than uncovering the truth behind how Apple actually sells its products. Marketing has its schemes, and the fact is, we are all guinea pigs.

I dont update any ios untill jailbreak, but i must say one thing, i cant say all but most of the cydia apps & tweaks are buggy they make smoothness of ios laggy, and most of the apps dont work like they claim and even after contacting the developer we dont get proper solution, i think this is the main reason that these apps are on cydia not in app store. Cydia apps developers should take it serious and do something and fix these problems then claim that jailbreak is freedom, i like to use tweaks but after trying and installing some i always endup restoreing my iphone to get back smooth functionality.

sorry about your experience, but i have a bunch of tweaks and since i don't install everything in sight, (i've learned not too) my iPod has retained a lot of the fluidity and stability. occasionally theres a hiccup, but i believe its a small price to pay for the massive boost in usability

Last but not least ill keep jailbreaking my ios devices i own 3gs, iphone 4 white, ipad 2 64 wifi, i dont do piracy for long i only install those apps from installous which trial isnt available and after trying it i buy that from app store' so in short i do piracy for little time and i did that on my 90% apps cuz there are very few apps which offers trial versions. For that i salute installous, and if app store apps will offer trials then ill be no more jailbreaker.

wi-fi sync absolutely makes sense. Even if I have to plug in my device to charge it, I don't need to charge it every time I sync, nor do I need to sync it every time I charge it. I charge my phone overnight, via a alarm clock dock, not my computer. Charging and syncing don't need to go hand in hand at all. Furthermore, you cannot charge an iPad via a computer usb port (not enough power output) so wifi syncing doesn't tie in with charging at all there.

You're right, I was unfair. You can charge via USB, but you'll need a high power USB port, which are only available after market, or on a small number of systems, and it will charge painfully slowly. At any rate, the charging/syncing connection just seems like a really odd association.

Great article! Unless Apple decides to let us have custom SMS tones, more than 12 apps in a folder, a better way to manage the multitasking, and customizing of the springboard, I'll stick to jailbreaking.

I read that article. An app stolen 90% of the time by iOS users? The device needs to be jailbroken to run pirated apps.. The jailbreak community makes up only 5%. Their logic is dubious as the majority of iOS devices would need to be jailbroken to make such a claim. Which would also imply that the majority of iPhone/iPad/Touch users are software pirates.

I'm still in high school, but every person who uses an Iphone or Ipod Touch that I know has only jailbroken their device for pirated apps, which is pretty sad.

I work in the cell phone industry integrating radio equipment in to the networks like for AT&T, Verizon, sprint/Nextel etc. I think you hit the nail on the head in this article, great insight.
Zack

Wah! Wah! Quit cryin' and make good use of the bike paths in summer, the skating in winter, and stop making up stuff about salt on the roads and lack of English- speaking jobs.