Why I Love My Jailbroken iPhone


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?

  • Bangali

    Well written Alex, especially the last part.. :)

  • volodoscope

    I do love the alterations, themes, and all these awesome things, but at the end of the day they do alter OS speed. No matter how these developers streamline their changes, they don’t run the way Apple build iOS. So adding all these little hacks really kills the battery. Things are always running, things have to be managed. It’s fun for few weeks, but then it gets old and annoying.

  • ipadman89029

    I like to jailbreak for the xbmc and Ifile and safari downloader and send and receive any and attach any and the most common one pandora downloader not for the music downloading option but the unlimited skip and no ads option it is. Must for any iPad and iPhone user

  • nodayosihiko

    if you want to see Jailbreak iPhone Home Screen, you check iHomeScreen.info :>. it’s japanese site & see over 10,000 home screen. http://ihomescreen.info/

  • markis2002

    Alex, your story about why you jailbreak sounds so childish yet I presume you are in your 40s. I moved away from the deplorable proprietary junk years ago and wonder why others buy into Apple’s junk. Android has since passed Apple and those of you that have not yet found their way, may never figure it out.

  • shade/ohio

    it does slow down the ios and kills battery

  • LukebAbell

    If you are looking for an easy guide to jailbreak, check out http://guidemyjailbreak.com

  • narcoustic

    You need to look again at the difference between jail breaking and rooting http://www.androidpit.com/jailbreak-android
    they are not the same thing. Android is a lot more versatile, even vs a jail broken Iphone. But a good article nonetheless

  • Ronald Stepp

    I remember hearing that you lose the strong encryption with the phone being completely encrypted when you password protect it, is this not true? After seeing all the things you can do with the hardware that apple doesn’t want you to have access to, I would love to jailbreak it.

  • MatsSvensson

    So what DO you get when you jailbreak your phone?

    “I can install blingwaldizer and plonkyfier” etc, doesn’t really say anything.

  • Garnetstar

    I don’t jailbreak to customize or push the boundaries or be in control (although I certainly don’t mind being able to do those!) I had to jailbreak, in order to use the iPad at all.

    I use it to teach chemistry. I have tons of App Store chemistry apps, and guess what? None of them are VGA-enabled.

    Universities almost always block the Bonjour ports on their classroom WiFi networks because they consider them not secure. So, I can’t use Apple TV or a laptop to display the iPad screen wirelessly on the classroom projector: iPad connects to devices via Bonjour. If you generate your own network, you can’t use the internet during class. And, universities don’t have endless money, they don’t run out and replace analog projectors with digital until the analogs actually break down.

    If you go to any scientific conference or give a seminar anywhere in the world, there will be only VGA connections to the projectors. Your apps need to display, or you can’t use an iPad.

    So it’s VGA in the classroom, and I can’t display any chemistry app. Cydia’s Display Out, of course, mirrors every app to the projector, so that’s what I use. I have often asked Apple why they can’t do the same, that it’s just forcing people like me to jailbreak! Silence.

    So it’s their own damn fault. Thank goodness for jailbreaking, othewise Apple would lose its iPad sales to professors all over the world.

  • Timothy Williamson

    I loved having a jail broken iPhone, but the issue I have is losing the easy ability to update to the next version of iOS without losing App data. Even though I’m now stuck in the walled garden, I know my app data is always easily restorable.

  • Lars Pallesen

    @Garnetstar> So why don’t you just buy a VGA adapter, then? Apple sells one for $29, but you can probably find cheaper non-original ones, if $29 is cost prohibitive for the universities where you teach.

  • Garnetstar

    I do have a VGA adapter, that’s how I connect the iPad to the projector when I use DisplayOut.

    The problem is what I stated: iOS *does not display* many apps on the projector. They run as normal on your iPad, but the projector screen goes blank. So the class can’t see the app, and you can’t teach with the app.

    Developers have to write special “VGA-enabling” things into their apps for them to be displayed on the screen. Why, I couldn’t say. The small-volume, specialized apps of course aren’t going to have those.

    However, if I jailbreak and use Cydia’s DisplayOut, voila! *Every* app displays on the classroom projector screen. And so I can use iPad to teach.

    If you don’t understand the problem, please don’t snark about it.

  • lovely_leydi

    I have the keys to the castle! I love my jailbroken iPhone 4s 5.1.1. Love is a strong word and that’s how I feel about my iPhone. In my humble opinion I beleive jailbreaking keeps Apple alive because their products are not cheap. Yet I can’t stopped buying Apple products for myself and my family. We are hooked on them and do not regret purchasing each and every one of them. Upon purchasing my iPhone and Jailbreaking it I now have an iPad and will buy an iPod to keep in my office. After paying for an Apple product with our hardworking money is our business what we do to it. Who doesn’t want something that is good to be better? We are innovative humans that when we have a chance to adjust something to our liking we do it. That is why Cydia the jailbreaking app updates every day with new ways to customize our jailbroken device. As the Apple market grows so will the Jailbreaking community. By the way I am the only one in my family with a jailbroken device. Just like I couldn’t lived without my jailbroken device other members of my family can and choose not to jailbreak. That being said, Jailbreaking is not for everyone. But like I previously said we are hooked on Apple products and once purchasing one of them we are free to do whatever we want with them. Meaning having a Choice to jailbreak or not. Either way Apple has our money.