Poll: Is Jailbreak the Answer to App Store Woes?

Yesterday we asked you if Apple should 1) keep on improving the App Store, 2) eliminate the App Store and let people side-load applications from any source, or 3( do both by keeping the App Store but adding side-loading as an option.

As commenter Shallomon pointed out, however, we technically already have option 3, with the App Store and Jailbreaking.

TiPb's mentioned before that Jailbreak is easily something Apple might consider "expert mode" or "iPhone pro", a second state of the device for those users willing and able to break the root jail and install their own apps, yet also something Apple doesn't have to offer or support as a second SKU.

Likewise, complaints that Jailbreak could potentially reduce battery life or stability are covered by users doing it -- or undoing it -- themselves, thus taking on that responsibility (and lets face it, my previous smartphone, a Palm Treo 680 crashed multiple times a day when making or receiving calls, and that was with standard apps installed...)

Apple can make legal arguments against the EFF and the idea that Jailbreaking shouldn't be made an official exception to the US DMCA laws, but they can also continue to ineffectively prevent it, much like they do with the Apple TV. Win, win?

It would leaves most users happy with the App Store, and those itching to go deeper with Jailbreak as an option.

GV Mobile is already there, after all...

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

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Poll: Is Jailbreak the Answer to App Store Woes?


I used to be jailbroken. When 3.0 came out, I stopped, for a couple reasons.
1. My favorite jailbreak app was QuickGold. Spotlight search is good enough now.
2. It's annoying having to restore as a new phone every time a new O/S version comes out.
3. Maybe it's in my head, but it seems that the O/S is a little bit faster not jailbroken.
There are a couple things I miss. I liked having notifications in the Status Bar at the top. And I kinda miss themes, but it's not a big deal. Oh, and taking video was nice too.

GV Mobile is where it is at. Add that to the ap store, provide an update for me to use the camera to record video on my 3G and give me the covenience of qTweeter and I will unjailbreak my iPhone.

I have a love/hate relationship with Jailbreaking! I love Backgrounder on my 3Gs. I'm a power user, I know the battery sacrifices. When I use Backgrounder, it's usually for my turn by turn app so it doesn't quit when I need to go do other things. And I LOVE SBSettings! I also use and love Notifier. I shouldn't have to "slide to unlock" to see missed calls, new IMs, new emails etc.
Apple could fix all this!

I'm not jailbroken, but wish I was. I really would like a true openssh, bash, cron, etc. I do have tethering enabled and it works like a champ over bluetooth.

Jailbreaking is an essential must for the following reasons...
SBS Settings - tons of toggle options at your fingertips
iRealQuickSMS - best sms available, once you try it, you can't live without it
Stacks - a mac os staple, should already be an iphone os staple
qtweeter - combined with your choice twitter client, it is unstoppable
Cycorder - 3G users, lights, camera, action
Qik - Stream anything, anywhere, anytime
GV Mobile - nuff said
Spot Bright - makes spotlight a little brighter
Mobile Terminal - a hacking/programming necessity
SSH - treat your phone as a wireless external drive, adding anything from custom wallpapers to homemade ringtones to .ipas
iFile - navigate folders, rename, copy, .zip, transfer files, it is a computer after all
Five Icon Dock - a better user experience
Winterboard - customization - see above
In other words, Jailbreaking is your phone, your way, and the best of both worlds. Try it.

Jailbreak (Redsn0w) worked fine for me on a 3GS running 3.0.1, no hiccups. What I wanted from jailbreaking I got: winterboard, adblock for safari, backgrounder and cyntact. None of that is anything I should have to jailbreak my phone to get.
But, I don't advocate changing the app store. Instead I just want Apple to apply a policy of benign indifference toward jailbreaking/sideloading. Quit deliberately breaking jailbreak with each upgrade and give up calling jailbreaking illegal. If a company comes out with a slick commercial way to side load, don't block them, compete with them. I want Apple to compete on the basis of superior products/user experience, not technological lock out.

Myself, I'd actually prefer Apple adding more of their own native features and apps, more so than fixing the App Store for third parties. 
I recently jailbroke two months ago. There are some nice extensions in Cydia, but there is also a lot of junk apps. I now have video, backgrounder, SBSettings, and a status notifier - that's it (no nasty-looking themes for me, thank you). And the few decent apps, like GV, MMS, qTwitter, tethering, etc., etc... I just have no use for.
But even though I've had no problems at all so far, I don't  think I'll keep re-jailbreaking each time Apple puts out more updates. It's just not worth the hassle for me. I'm still using native apps and App Store apps FAR FAR more than anything from Cydia.

@Shollomon, Likely as long as the EFF is officially asking for a legal exemption in the DCMA, Apple will officially be lobbying against it. Maybe they could all shut up for a while :)
Jailbreaking is also likely targeted by Apple due to unlocking being an issue with carrier partners. If unlocking were distinct, I wonder if Apple would be indifferent to it like they seemingly are to the Apple TV jailbreak.

As much as I'm not into JB, I gotta give credit to grassroots movement. If enough people Jump ship from the app store, Apple/ATT/etc will play ball. But it has to be a coordinated effort from us the cash crops rather than some renegade appraoch that turns me off of the JB movement. I am new to the iPhone scene after years in symbian and I'm not too eager to back to unpolished apps. Another possible solution is managed services so they can reap revenue and we can have access to rich apps that will save us money in mobile digital consumption.

@rene My understanding is that unlocking and jailbreak are two separate things (I could be wrong). While jailbreaking is necessary for unlocking, one need not unlock is one jailbreaks. I think Apple can quit opposing jailbreaking while opposing unlocking.
They also don't need DMCA to oppose unlocking. If you bought a subsidized phone its breach of contract. If you paid full price, its nobody's business but yours what you do with the phone.
I also imagine that the EFF would shut up if Apple would.
@Charles Some jailbreak apps are very polished, some are not (qik, adblock, winterboard very polished, backgrounder not so much). Some are commercial, some are free. Exactly like the universe of apps you can get for your PC or Mac.

Here are the main reasons I jailbreak:
- MMS ( hurry up)
- sounds for email and txt ( why is this not native)
- customized themes and keyboard skins
apple fixes these and I will not Break it.

I think there is a missing option here in this poll. I am not jailbreaking, and am a fan of what is being done via Jailbreaking. I think there needs to be an option that isn't considered illegal for these sorts of things. If Apple said, we'll always leave the door open for jailbreaking and you can always switch out of it if you're having problems and continue to get support, that may change.
I also believe that some apps should not be allowed to be side loaded. I know everyone wants to use their 3G connection for certain things, but if it's against AT&T (or whoevers') TOS, I don't think it's right. If there was a way to have something like jailbreak, but a half way in between, I'd be happy with it. For example, allow apps that don't use 3G data connection for more than x MB a day of transfer that are via jailbreak, and all else is permitted and given the unofficial blessing of Apple. Then I'd be on board totally!

I jailbroke starting at OS 3.0. It was more than worth it for me with just SBSettings. Having all those toggles available is awesome. I couldn't for the life of me understand why Apple did not include a numeric battery life indicator in the 3G and only allowed it for 3GS when it is obviously not a hardware limitation. Same thing for video recording. Cycorder is on my 3G and I appreciate it more even though Apple said it was a hardware limitation on 3G.
I also have GV but am waiting for it to be available in Canada.
I agree that for convenience of installing apps, the App Store can't be beat, and the inconvenience of losing your jailbreak after every firmware update is a big pain. However, I am more likely to hold off on firmware updates that are unnecessary in order to keep my jailbreak and my Cydia Apps that I find ARE necessary.

I am really on the fence here. I jailbroke my phone several months ago and went crazy installing things like SBSettings, Winterboard, BiteSMS, Backgrounder, Intelliscreen, etc. However, I noticed there was a big hit in battery life AND performance. The phone just didn't seem very crisp, even when scrolling pages on the springboard, and the battery was dead before mid-Afternoon.
So, I went back to the original iPhone software (non-Jailbroken) last month.
A few days ago, I re-jailbroke because I couldn't stand going without SBSettings anymore. So, I jailbroke and now only have Cydia, SBSettings, and BiteSMS installed. Installing only these three hasn't killed the performance noticably, so I am happy there. However, it seems like the battery a bit drains faster.
I am currently rocking a 3G but am really tempted to go get a 3GS, as I think the extra memory will really be able to handle all the extra burden that these other programs add. There's supposedly better battery life too.
Thoughts on the Jailbreak 3G vs 3GS?

I dont think jailbreaking is the solution for the app store problems,some people dont care about the potential of the iphone, whenever they see something that is innovative they say the iPhone is just a toy or they say thats whay a pc is for.
So to people like that hell yeah the app store is fine, even no app store would have been fine for them.
But to me my iPhone is not even half as usefull without the jailbreak.

"I’m not jailbroken, but wish I was. I really would like a true openssh, bash, cron, etc. I do have tethering enabled and it works like a champ over bluetooth."
How are you tethering without jailbreaking?

@Joe McG Agreed. Performance and battery suffer, but the convenience of the essential JB apps makes it worth it, and I am living with it.
@iDutch Agreed.

Before 3.0, I used it for video, tethering and MMS. But now they are included. I miss the video recorder but not enough to jb again.
Once GV is available in Canada (follow @disbandthecrtc on Twitter!) I wil JB again.

I finally jailbroke my phone last Saturday (after mulling over jailbreaking it for months). I'm pretty happy. I can deal with the performance and batter suffer just a little because I'm so happy with all I can do after jailbreaking, especially the themes. :)
I'm still using the app store, and jailbreaking is just giving me the added tweaks I like.

I haven't used the app store in ages. There is nothing worth downloading free or paid. This is one of the reason I'm switching to sprint and getting a Pre.
AT&T 3g is overrated and their plans are too expensive. The iPhone even jailbroken is crippled by an outdated os. So honestly I don't see any value in keeping it.

I couldn't stand the lagginess on the 3G while I was jailbroken but now that I got the 3GS it's fantastic. Yes it does slow down your phone a bit but it's still much faster than a non-jailbroken 3G. I would never go back in a million years.

@Matt B. I believe you can still jailbreak with redsn0w 0.8, just select the 3.0 IPSW. I read this on the Cydia Home Page, but search around for more confirmation and user experience.

I have jailbroken, but I am a developer so it's a hassle for me to keep jailbreaking when I need to install pre-public versions of firmware.
I liked not being limited to the App store though.

@SpiceRak2 - The can't-life-without jailbroken apps are not in the official App Store because they aren't written with the official, Apple-approved iPhone SDK.

Further, those apps utilize functionality that Apple's SDK doesn't provide. In other words, those apps can't be written with the official iPhone SDK.

If Apple gave me a native app like SBSettings and a way to use my own sounds for SMS/MMS/Email etc I would be quite a happy bunny and not need to jailbreak.
God knows how many million iPhones sold and SIX fricking SMS tones. PATHETIC!
That's why I need to jailbeak.

@Charles I respect your opinion but what makes you think the jailbreak apps are unpolished. Alot of the apps are well designed and work fine. Most of them work much better than the apps in the app store. I seriously think that apple is just showing how much power they have. They (apple) should just let apps through or allow 3rd party apps to do their thing.

I want to jailbreak my phone so bad, but I can't get pass the fact that I might cause harm to my phone. I want things like themes and emulators. Is it worth it?

The odds of you causing harm is about as likely as getting struck by lighting five times while riding a pink horse in the Playboy mansion.
If something does happen just restore.
A stock Iphone is pretty worthless until it is jailbroken.

you forgot the option "WAS jailbroken and never will again."
i loved my jailbroken iphone when iphone os2.2 was the norm. it gave me the 2 biggest things i was missing: video recording and mms. better notifications, themes, backgrounding, and sms/e-mail tones were all a plus.
when 3.0 hit, my 2 biggest reasons for jailbreaking were gone. (used modified carrier file for mms.) the rest just weren't worth all the trouble when official updates gave a big enough head ache already.
but yeah apple should just let it go and leave "sideloading" as an option. they don't have to condone it but just leave it alone. let it be and concentrate on their own crippled app store first.

Battery life really bad in my jailbroken iphone. Been thinking of just restoring back. I don't have access to power so I do need phone to make it thru the day and it just doesn't while jail broken. Sucks reakky cause like everyone hear says,iphone really incomplete with all the features jailbraking gives you. Sad really

I had my 2G jailbroken before 3.0 was released and honestly I didn't see much that made me believe jailbreaking is worth the hassle. Most of the themes range from gaudy to completely useless, and there were few jailbrake apps (cydia) that I ever had a need for. Honestly the only thing I would like back is the ability to lock landscape/portrait modes.

I see alot of people complaining about Apple this and Apple that blah blah blah. The option is there for everyone who wants to jailbreak or not. I was jailbroken since 2.2 and when 3.0 came out my battery did drain much faster. I was constantly using sbsetting to kill process especialy the mail app that seams to be running when I don't even use the mail app. I do agree with many that some of the jailbreak should be native to the phone but this is Apples baby and when it's your baby you don't need or want anyone telling you what you can or cannot do with your baby unless it's a judge lol. I run official now it's fine for me either way.
Apple should keep their phone locked it's the only way to keep us buying and buying and buying when little by little they release different features that a jailbroken phone can do already. The choice is yours. VIVA La Jailbreak.

I jailbreak mostly for themes as I'd like my phone to look customized to my liking. That's what I like about Blackberries and wish Apple would sell themes.

I jail broken my iPhone for inspell and universal search and they both work great on my iPhone 3g.

@CJ Millisock
"Further, those apps utilize functionality that Apple’s SDK doesn’t provide. In other words, those apps can’t be written with the official iPhone SDK."
So who is at fault here? I know who suffers in this equation, but who should I blame? Apple's limited SDK? The developers that can not work within the SDK?
I am not trying to be obtuse...I really can not fathom why software that has been proven to work on the iPhone can not officially be offered for the iPhone. For those who are much more tech saavy, this is something that can be corrected, one way or another...but as for me, I wouldn't even know where to begin when it comes to jailbreaking and I am very ignorant to the consequences/risks/benefits.
I want all the features everyone is talking about, but I don't feel I should have to jailbreak my phone to get it.

The reason I jailbreak is for themes, I just wish apple would do what they do with album artwork in iTunes and allow you to change the app icon in "get info/artwork" and allow you to change the springboard wallpaper this would stop me jailbreaking in a heartbeat.

It seems clear from most jailbreakers' comments here that jailbreaking is more so the answer to iPhone OS woes (missing features) than App Store woes. (rejected apps).
Just look at what the vast majority here say they want ー themes, settings, sounds, notifiers, tethering, catagories, background apps, file system, etc., etc.,
If Apple continues to (slowly) add these toys to their sandbox, the App Store's limitations begin looking a little less important... it would seem here, anyway.