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.
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 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.
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.
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.