There’s a common misconception about jailbreaking. Many believe that people jailbreak just to pirate apps. While many do undoubtedly jailbreak for the sole purchase of stealing, the reason jailbreaking exists is definitely not piracy.
At its heart, jailbreaking is about staying ahead of the curve. In this case, the curve is Apple itself. Innovation is key. Jailbreak developers create hacks, tweaks, and extensions for iOS that go beyond the boundaries of what Apple allows. Jailbreaking exists for the same reason Apple exists: to challenge the status quo.
The world’s first jailbreak convention, JailbreakCon, is happening this weekend in San Francisco, and Cult of Mac will be there reporting from the show floor. We sat down with a couple jailbreak designers who will be attending JailbreakCon to get their thoughts on jailbreak innovation, good design, and why iOS is the best mobile platform on earth.
“With the freedom we have as jailbreakers, there’s an opportunity to enhance iOS for the better”
Josh Tucker designs concepts and tweaks that sell in Cydia, the jailbreak version of the App Store. He’s worked on extensions like CallBar, a $4 package that turns incoming calls into regular notifications on the iPhone. Tucker will be giving a workshop at JailbreakCon this Saturday on tweak design and how to implement a good idea and sell it in Cydia.
“With the freedom we have as jailbreakers, there’s an opportunity to enhance iOS for the better,” said Tucker in an interview with Cult of Mac. “We as a community have a responsibility to uphold Apple’s standards and mindset for excellence, even though we may be considered the “dark side.” We choose iOS because of the work Apple has put into making it the best mobile ecosystem on the planet. I am just as much a user as I am a concept artist and iOS designer. I want to create and build products that are worth Apple’s attention—changes and features that continually evolve for the better.”
Sometimes a tweak becomes brilliant in its simplicity. Reveal, one of Tucker’s tweaks, allows you to tap on iOS notification bubbles to read more text. It’s not revolutionary, but evolutionary. It takes the experience one step farther.
“A great project in the jailbreak community with unique aesthetics and good design starts with a foundation centered around enhancing the current environment in a native and intuitive way,” said Tucker. “From there, innovation can occur if new and creative ideas are approached in the name of not alienating the simplicity and beauty of iOS.”
In March of 2011, a developer and designer named Peter Hajas released an open-source alternative to Apple’s default iOS push notification system. The extension was called MobileNotifier, and with the help of designer Kyle Adams, Hajas made it available for jaikbreakers in Cydia. Cult of Mac’s own Charlie Sorrel wrote in Wired that MobileNotifier was what notifications on the iPhone should be like.
Hajas’s system allowed for incoming notifications to slide in at the top of the iPhone’s screen. The design was much more intuitive than Apple’s system of notifications that filled the center of the screen and demanded immediate attention. MobileNotifier let you dismiss notifications or save them for viewing letter, and you could reorder unveiled notifications in a simple stack view. MobileNotifier may look familiar now because Hajas was hired by Apple shortly after he released his work in Cydia. iOS 5 was debuted with less intrusive, slide-in notifications a few months later.
“This community has an infinite amount of potential”
“The quality of the project as a whole is vital to the success of the application or tweak, free or paid,” according to Josh Tucker. “I am all for quality over quantity. I believe that this [jailbreak] community has an infinite amount of potential.”
Although iOS is widely considered the most secure consumer mobile operating system on the planet, Apple’s commitment to simplicity has given room for jailbreakers to tinker and play.
“I love the stock look of iOS, however I am all for people seeking a new style by creating their own renditions and themes,” said Tucker. “I don’t find many themes interesting but the ones I do find unique, I know that the artists behind them are exceptional at what they do and put countless time to make every single detail perfect.”
“Apple’s commitment to simplicity has given room for jailbreakers to tinker and play”
One such artist is Thientam Bach, a legendary designer and themer in the jailbreak community who has worked on many Cydia icons. For Bach (also known as Surenix), designing a new theme is a serious, in-depth process.
“I do a lot of questioning, ask a lot of people about all sorts of things and then compile some sort of main idea from the answers I receive,” said Bach in an interview with Cult of Mac. “The most time consuming part is finding that theme that you’re going to make and that first icon concept. When I made inPulse, it took me a good month to actually get the metal to look like metal with the right reflection.”
“With ayecon, it took me a good 3-4 weeks to have the main “height” level, the perfect size and the perfect effect so it’ll work universally across all stock Apple icons, App Store icons and Cydia icons. Then I go ahead and download the top 10-15 App Store apps, Cydia apps and theme the rest of Apple’s stock icons (this usually takes about 3-4 weeks if and when you get the hang of things). Next are popular UI and the stuff people use or see on a day to day basis like Lockscreen, Passcode, iPod skin, Dialer skin, BackBoard (notification, folders, switcher BG). I’ll do this and ‘complete’ the theme, which usually takes me about a month. After everything’s done and I am happy with it, I’ll give out a few copies to my beta testers and sometimes they’ll have several app icons I haven’t themed/masked or they’re on a different firmware which might have a different naming convention so a good two more weeks will be spent in order to fix any other issues.”
“I want my phone to be mine, unique, and do what I can’t do on stock iOS software”
Why would someone jailbreak? “Because I want my phone to be mine, unique, and do what I can’t do on stock iOS software,” said Bach. “I believe that a good theme is just as important as any good tweaks.”
“There are opportunities to innovate the look and feel of iOS just as much as new tweaks and hacks, said Tucker. “The beauty of the jailbreak community is the freedom to customize and tinker with what you wish. Creativity and innovative design stems from an expansive ecosystem to play with. The more room to roam that you have, the greater potential you have for changing something for the better.”
The jailbreak community is gathering this weekend in San Francisco for JailbreakCon 2012, and Cult of Mac will be there in full force. Make sure to follow our coverage all weekend for more from the show floor.