Like Apple itself, jailbreak innovation is constantly evolving. Hackers and developers are continually pushing the boundaries of iOS. When Apple releases a major new version of iOS each year, jailbreakers immediately start finding new ways to enhance and improve upon the experience.
After iOS 5 was announced last summer, many believed that jailbreaking was starting to lose its appeal. The same questions are being asked this year with the release of iOS 6, mainly due to the fact that Apple continues to add and implement features that were previously exclusive to jailbreaking.
JailbreakCon, the only convention solely dedicated the jailbreak community, is happening this weekend in San Francisco, and Cult of Mac will be there. Jailbreaking iOS 6 and the iPhone 5 will be hot topics at the convention, and a huge underlying thread of conversation will be the future of jailbreaking itself.
Jeff Benjamin, an editor for the popular jailbreak site iDownloadBlog, thinks that jailbreaking has lost part of its appeal in recent years. As iOS matures, the need to hack and tweak the OS grows weaker.
“Although I’d like to believe otherwise, jailbreaking is becoming less intriguing than it has been in the past,” said Benjamin in an interview with Cult of Mac. “There are fewer reasons to do so as Apple continues to implement features into iOS, that at one time, you could only get via jailbreaking. Apple has seemingly become less stoic about jailbreaking, but at the same time, they’re making it less necessary as they introduce many popular jailbreak features into stock iOS. You have companies like Verizon who offer things like tethering and FaceTime over cellular free of charge.”
“With iOS 5, jailbreakers started applying their talents to the new features introduced by Apple”
Jailbreakers were able to use free tethering and FaceTime over cellular long before carriers started offering the features for additional charges.
“That’s not to say that there won’t continue to be compelling reasons to jailbreak,” added Benjamin. “For instance, you have Zephyr, and then you have something like Springtomize 2. Of the two, I could actually see Apple implementing Zephyr-like functionality into iOS 7. We’ll never see a tool like Springtomize 2, though, which allows you to customize nearly every facet of the iOS Springboard.”
Jailbreak developer Grant Paul, also known as “chpwn,” released Zephyr for iOS 5 last year. The innovative tweak adds iPad-like gestures to the iPhone, allowing users to access the multitasking tray and switch between apps with custom finger swipes. For instance, swiping up from the bottom of the screen with two fingers would invoke iOS the multitasking tray, and swiping with three fingers from left to right would switch between open apps.
Springtomize 2, developed by teen developer Filippo Bigarella, allows jailbreakers to customize nearly everything about iOS on the iPhone and iPad, all the way down to the grid spacing between app icons. You can hide items in the status bar, add extra icons to the iOS dock, change unlock animations, and much, much more.
With iOS 5, jailbreakers started applying their talents to the new features introduced by Apple.
“When iOS 5 first dropped, the trendy thing was Siri,” said Benjamin. “It seemed like a day couldn’t pass with some new Siri port or Siri tweak. I still believe that’s a fairly interesting reason to jailbreak. There’s a tweak called AssistantLove that lets you search Spotify via Siri. Until Apple truly opens up Siri to 3rd party apps, that will continue to be a valid reason to jailbreak.”
What about the newly-released iOS 6?
“I still love the idea of being able to have control over your device and do what you want”
“iOS 6 didn’t really add any major features to the table besides the Maps app, and I don’t really see jailbreak developers messing with that much,” said Benjamin. “I’d like to see what innovative things jailbreak developers might do with Passbook.”
Interestingly, a developer named Ryan Petrich is currently working on porting the old Google Maps app back to iOS 6. If he can make the hack stable, Petrich would assumedly offer the port in Cydia, the jailbreak alternative to the App Store.
“I’d like to see what innovative things jailbreak developers might do with Passbook”
“The three main areas that seem to be “sexy” right now are anything related to multitasking, Siri, and animations for any place in iOS from the lock screen to the SpringBoard,” said Josh Tucker, a jailbreak concept and tweak designer who will be presenting at JailbreakCon this Saturday. “I haven’t found any packages lately in these areas useful or appealing to me, but everyone else appears to love them! Supply and demand.”
“Jailbreaking has not lost it’s appeal at all to me, even though most features I want are available on the latest iOS releases,” Will Strafach, more commonly known as “chronic,” told Cult of Mac. Strafach was been an instrumental part of the iOS hacking community for years. His online pseudonym refers to the Chronic Dev Team, a group Strafach founded that’s devoted to hacking the iPhone. “I don’t personally jailbreak at this point anymore,” said Strafach, who has recently gotten into security consulting. “I still love the idea of being able to have control over your device and do what you want, especially with amazing innovations like MobileSubstrate that allows for “plugins” that inject code into other applications. Homebrew applications were one thing, but being able to easily modify and add to core apps and parts of the OS is just a game-changer.”
Jailbreak development has certainly not lost its relevance. Just ask the hundreds of hackers, developers, and jailbreak users who will be gathering for a meeting of the minds at JailbreakCon this weekend. One could even say that jailbreaking’s brightest days are just ahead.
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.