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 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!

26 Comments
  • In principle, when you break your iOS device you're on your own regarding security on your device. You have to ask yourself: Am I that good at security to keep myself immune from any attacks I just opened my door for?
  • Been jailbreaking since iPhone OS 3.2 (iPad), and iOS 4.0.1 (iPhone), and I have yet to encounter security issues Rene the Conspiracy theorists overreacts about. Sure the vulnerabilities are there, but stick iOS also has 'em as well. You jailbreak for the freedom of customization, not piracy which unfortunately comes with any territory.
  • Yes, absolutely you should. Wish I could but my ip7 is corporate owned. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • You can always reverse the Jailbreak when you need to give the iPhone back
  • I've never been jailbroken. I wanted to a while back to get a screen recorder. But I managed to get one another way. I'm satisfied with my iPhone as is now. No need for a risky jailbreak.
  • There's nothing risky about Jailbreaking, as long as you don't download anything strange (which follows with using your Mac or Windows computer as well)
  • If you see yourself as “needing” to jailbreak just go over to Android and stop the posturing and chest thumping. iOS is not for you.
  • 100% disagree. Much prefer iOS over Android for a host of reasons, but Apple is being obstinate on many issues for no other reason than they can. I absolutely will NOT use iOS unless it is jailbroken. Here are a list of incredible useful 'jailbreaks' that virtually every iOS user would love to have and use every day if they could, and there is no reason Apple can't add them at any time: 1. Folders within folders. Really Apple? No nesting of folders? Why not? I only want a single folder for 'Games', but I want to be able to have them further broken down by categories - like board, card, action, etc. I don't want 10 screens of games, when a single screen of folders within a games directory will do. Oh! And let me choose how many mini-icons to display on that folder please. Your insistence on trying to show 9 really small icons is a hideous disaster. Let me only show 1, 2 ,4 representations of what is in the folder. 2. Let ME choose the number of rows and columns on my home page. Thanks. I like 5 columns and 6 rows on my home screen. In conjunction with folders within folders, I have everything on a single screen 3. Let ME choose how many items to have in my dock. I find 7 to be a good number for me 4. Actually USE force Touch for folders. I use an app that lets me use force touch on folders and it pops up the first 4 apps inside the folder (Number can be set). So I am able to place my 4 most-used apps at the top of a folder, then Force Touch the folder and launch the app. Much quicker than tapping into the folder and launching. 5. Force touch to clear all notifications. What a concept. Let me use force touch on notification screen to clear ALL notifications at once. 6. Date in Status Bar. Really? I have to Jailbreak to do this STILL? 7. Detailed Battery usage. Really? jailbreak for such simple and meaningful information? 8. Kill all background apps with a single tap. Yes, you DO need to kill background apps a lot - there are a lot of poorly written apps. A simple way to kill them all is a big time saver. 9. iTouch throughout the OS. No-brainer. too bad you can only use your finger print for passwords throughout the OS and across apps by jailbreaking 10. Guest user account. Great way to let others use your phone while also securing your private info. Easy to do. Apple won't do it, Jailbreakers will. And the list goes on. There are amazing things you can do to make your phone work so much better and faster that Apple could easily implement but won't.
  • Excellent comment!
    I seem to always miss the jailbreak window every time I think about doing it. Such a bummer.
  • Just keep up to date with Twitter feeds or similar, then you'll know as soon as
  • Sounds like a perfectly reasonable response if those things are important to you. Me however, there isn't anything you've mentioned in that list that has been a concern for me. I guess I simply don't care enough about those things. Now that ******, Music app that's just convoluted eyecandy for people that don't have lots of music and want to be sold expensive streaming services? Yeah, that app i fricken hate. Luckily there's cesium which is a bit better. Related point: you might find and app called "Battery Life" useful. I used it when my battery on my 6 was dying and to make sure the replacement battery i installed was sold to me able to hold a full charge and wasn't sold defective. It has lots of details.
  • I need to record my telephone conversations, which is perfectly legal where I live. I'm told Android can do it but I'd rather stick to iOS. Can you easily record all telephone conversations with a jail broken iPhone?
  • There is a tweak for that. Not sure if they are iOS 10 compatible but there are indeed tweaks in Cydia for recording phone conversations.
  • What ikrupp said. :)
  • "Should you jailbreak your iPhone?" No. Next question.
  • Why not?
  • "Should you jailbreak your iPhone?" Yes. Next Question.
  • No I won't jailbreak any of my IOS devices.
  • i had almost all iPhones and jailbreak yeah but somehow i do not have to much time. so iphone 7 plus is still a virgin lol i really would like to see widgets and extra fonts yeah file system would be nice to have
  • haven't done it since the 4s (my prior phone) because every app I need I can get an adequate free version and i don't find a need to do things like tether.
  • The only thing I jailbreak for is little things like denser app arrangement on the homescreen, auto wallpaper switching, change apps in control center, etc. Haven't done it since the 6s though because I keep installing betas.
  • It's our phone! We should be able to do what the heck we like with it.
  • Unfortunately Apple disagrees, but that's why the jailbreaking community exists :)
  • Yup. We can do what we want :)
  • It's strictly a question of what kind of person you are. If you're using the phone and the apps, and you want the maximum security and ease of use, don't. If you're by nature a hacker, go for it, but know a) the hack that was used to jailbreak it is a vulnerability, and will be plugged eventually. Or other bad stuff might use that same vulnerability. But remember the lyric from the old Dylan song: to live outside the law, you must be honest.
  • there is a perfect call blocking app out there that you cant get unless you're jb.