Should you jailbreak your iPhone?

AirPods charging case with Lunies leather keychain case
AirPods charging case with Lunies leather keychain case

There are a couple of good reasons people consider jailbreaking an iPhone. Maybe you've upgraded to the next model and the previous iPhone is still good enough to play with, or you saw a YouTube video with a cool feature you can only get by jailbreaking. Whatever the reason, there's usually a moment right before you look up how to jailbreak your iPhone where you consider whether it's something you should actually be doing.

This FAQ is for that moment when you are faced with whether you should or should not risk the unknown and jailbreak your phone. Here's everything you need to know about making that decision!

What exactly is jailbreaking?

Basically, it's a process that allows you to modify parts of the operating system Apple does not allow you to modify.

With a jailbroken iPhone, you can install apps and mods from third-party repositories that allow you to change the size of your apps on the homescreen, tweak the colors of iOS menus to suit your liking, and even control the kind of information that is sent from your phone when interacting with other apps.

Why aren't these things in the App Store?

Apple has very specific rules about how apps are allowed to behave on your iPhone in order to be allowed into the App Store. If you want an app that shows a countdown to WWDC on your lockscreen, Apple would not allow it in the App Store because that app modifies a part of iOS that Apple thinks shouldn't be modified.

In the past, jailbroken apps have become so popular that Apple has added those features directly into the OS as a way of encouraging people to avoid jailbreaking. Apple can't, or won't, do this for every jailbreak app. So, there are respositories full of unique features that you can only get on your iPhone if you are willing to jailbreak it.

Do all of my normal apps still work?

For the most part, yes. Remember, iOS apps are largely built as individual things without a lot of shared resources. It's one of the ways Apple has been able to guarantee a certain level of security in iOS for so long.

That having been said, there are jailbreak apps designed to modify other third-party apps and those can occasionally break things. Sometimes developers implement protections which render their apps inoperable if specific jailbreak mods are detected, which is occasionally difficult to understand and work around.

How can I tell if my phone can be jailbroken?

The big thing to look for when it comes to jailbreaking is your iOS version. Every iPhone gets notifications to install the latest version of iOS when it is available, and those latest versions usually include new security from Apple to prevent whatever was being used previously to cause a jailbreak to happen.

Currently, the iOS version that can be jailbroken is 10.2. If you have a version higher than this without a backup to a previous version of iOS saved somewhere, you will not be able to jailbreak your phone at this time.

What about my iPad?

Should you buy a 5th generation iPad in 2020?

Should you buy a 5th generation iPad in 2020? (Image credit: iMore)

Yes! You can jailbreak an iPad, an iPod, and an iPhone with the same basic experience.

It's worth pointing out there are significantly more jailbreak apps and mods made with the iPhone form factor in mind, so like the App Store not everything on the iPhone looks great on the iPad or iPod. All you really need to do is explore!

Is jailbreaking dangerous?

Any time you modify an operating system and intentionally subvert Apple's policies for keeping you safe, you're taking a risk. Using jailbroken apps aren't like using App Store apps, because Apple isn't policing these repositories to guarantee your safety. If they're policed at all, it's by individual users.

Basically, jailbreaking is a trust exercise. You are trusting the people building these apps and mods to have your best interests at heart, and with that kind of trust comes obvious risks. You aren't automatically at risk if you jailbreak, but you are actively disabling things that had previously been keeping you safe.

So should I do this or not?

Ultimately, deciding to jailbreak comes down to answering a handful of questions for yourself.

  • Are you somewhat disillusioned with your iPhone and the way it works?
  • Do you enjoy tinkering with new apps and possibly unfinished features?
  • Are you technically minded enough to fix something on your phone if it breaks?

If you answered yes to these three questions, jailbreaking is something you'd probably enjoy and you should go check it out. Make absolutely sure you have a backup of your current iPhone setup somewhere just in case you need to go back to the way things were, and then go have a blast!

Any questions?

If you're still on the fence about whether or not you want to jailbreak your iPhone, put your concerns in the comments and we'll talk about them more.

Russell Holly

Russell is a Contributing Editor at iMore. He's a passionate futurist whose trusty iPad mini is never far from reach. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Reach out on Twitter!