Why I Love My Jailbroken iPhone

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Part of my iPhone's Home screen.
Part of my iPhone's Home screen.

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I’ve been jailbreaking my iOS devices for a couple of years now, and to be perfectly honest, I’ve thought about going back to the stock version of iOS many times. Sometimes I’ll ask myself if it’s really worth jailbreaking my iPhone. iOS 5 brought a lot of features that were only available for jailbreakers previously, and iOS 6 is adding several more.

Before the jailbreak for iOS 5.1.1 came out, I was considering abandoning Cydia, the jailbreak’s App Store equivalent, for good. I didn’t think I needed to jailbreak anymore.

And in most cases, you don’t really need to jailbreak ever. But since the iOS 5.1.1 jailbreak, I’ve fallen in love with my jailbroken iPhone 4S all over again. Here’s why.

The Customization And Innovation

You jailbreak because you want to be given the keys to the castle.

The only reason anyone ever jailbreaks is to customize something about iOS, Apple’s mobile operating system that powers the iPod touch, iPhone and iPad. You jailbreak because you want to be given the keys to the castle. Once you’ve hooked your device up to a computer and hijacked iOS, you are basically given free reign over your device. Anything goes. In a lot of ways, jailbreaking an iPhone gives you the freedom other platforms, like Apple’s arch-rival, Android, offer as well. Jailbreaking an iPhone is like rooting an Android smartphone. The operating system no longer tells you what you can and can’t do.

Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Even with a pitch like that, it’s been hard for me to explain to someone exactly why they should jailbreak. Having the job I do, I get asked about jailbreaking a lot. The most common questions asked are, “What do I get?” or “Is it worth it?” I usually just whip out my personal iPhone 4S and show them my Home screen, which is currently rocking a beautiful theme called ayecon. If that fails to impress (or at least cause interest), I go through some of the more visible tweaks I have installed, like SBSettings, Switchy, Stride, and the quick reply feature in biteSMS. By the time I’m done with my 60-second demo, the person’s eyebrows are usually raised with intrigue.

I love my jailbroken iPhone because I can finely tune my iOS experience. If I don’t want to see app icon labels, I can make then disappear.

On my personal iPhone I have the following Cydia tweaks/packages installed: Activator, AnyAttach, AppCent, AssistantLove, Attacher Pro, ayecon, BadgeClear, BannerDisable, biteSMS, Blackout, Bulletin, CleverPin, Curiosa, Display Recorder, FolderEnhancer, iFile, Mail Enhancer Pro, NCSettings, PasswordPilot Pro, PkgBackup, PocketSafari, Powerguard, Protecti, Safari Download Manager, Safari UniBar, Safari Upload Enabler, SBSettings, ScrollingBoard, Springtomize 2, Stride, Swipe Safari, Switchy, Torch, WinterBoard, Zephyr and 3G Unrestrictor 5.

As you can imagine, I’m deeply entrenched in the jailbreak community. To me, the above list represents most of the marquee tweaks and extensions Cydia has to offer. With the above list installed on my iPhone 4S, I can move around iOS faster, do more with Siri, be more efficient at messaging and email, manage my Home screen better, use Mobile Safari more effectively, keep my iPhone more protected, and hack limitations to allow features like FaceTime over 3G and ‘Do Not Disturb’ for Notification Center on iOS 5. In case you didn’t know, those last two features are coming in iOS 6 for everyone later this year.

What sells jailbreaking is the total package.

The thing about naming off individual Cydia tweaks is that each one by itself doesn’t really warrant the hassle of jailbreaking a device. What sells jailbreaking is the total package—having every tweak work together in harmony.

It’s become a lot easier to jailbreak over the past couple years — it’s so easy now that you just hook up an iPhone to a PC and press a button — but people still think it’s this strenuous process. The only major downside to jailbreaking is that you are locked into the version of iOS you’re currently running. If Apple releases a new version, you have to wait for a new jailbreak to be made — and that could take months. In that way, jailbreakers are late adopters. We get on the newest version of iOS last. But in every other way, jailbreakers are the earliest adopters there are.

More Of A Philosophy

Professional athlete Wayne Gretzky once said, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” Steve Jobs later used the phrase to describe Apple’s philosophy as a tech company.

In terms of the evolution of iOS, if Apple is skating to where the puck is going, the jailbreak community has already skated there and left. The first third-party App Store came from the jailbreak community, as did baseband unlocking, 3G tethering, and many, many more features that have been added to iOS over the years. I have full confidence that iOS would not be as innovative today if it would not been for the hackers and tinkerers who pushed, and continue to push, the boundaries of what the operating system can do.

If Apple is skating to where the puck is going, the jailbreak community has already skated there and left.

I don’t jailbreak because I want to “stick it” to Apple. I get fired up when a new tweak comes out that radically alters the iOS experience, even if it’s something impractical like Quasar on the iPad. It’s the thrill of innovation that resonates with me. Developers thinking outside of the box to create beautiful themes and fundamental changes to how iOS works. If you think that iOS has gotten boring lately, you clearly don’t enjoy the same kind of operating system I do. I can make my iPhone look like basically anything I want it to, even Android. And while I would may not ever change it that drastically, I love the fact that I can.

If you jailbreak, you enjoy pushing the boundaries. You don’t like to play it safe. You’re a bit of a rebel. Some would even consider you a troublemaker. You’re not fond of rules. You see things differently.

Sound familiar?