These creative hackers bring style to iPhone jailbreaks

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LockPlus, created by Jr, allows users to download thousands of different lock screen setups.
LockPlus, created by Jr, allows users to download thousands of different lock screen setups.
Photo: Jr/junesiphone.com

Cult of Mac 2.0 bugThis is the second story in a three-part series on jailbreaking iOS.

Apple may have used “Think Different” as a marketing slogan once upon a time, but there is a kind of underground network of iOS developers who claim the two words as a reason to exist.

But with their idea of “Think Different,” they add this: “Look Different.”

Tweak developers

These rogues devise new ways with each OS update to jailbreak iPhones so it and other mobile devices can be customized. When word of a break begins to circulate, a part of this robust community known as tweak developers get very busy. They provide designs and features not found on other iPhones.

“I wake up every morning to a full inbox and Twitter,” said a tweak developer from Mississippi who is known in the jailbreak community as Jr. “But it can be like a seasonal job. When there’s a jailbreak, servers get hit hard.”

As the iPhone approaches its 10th birthday, designs on the handsets have changed, but the look of the interface is essentially the same. Hackers have been jailbreaking the various versions of the operating system since the first iPhone to add new features. They have also cracked other devices, like the iPad, iPod Touch, Apple Watch and Apple TV.

The number of jailbroken devices is fluid, but Jay Freeman, whose platform, Cydia, is like an App Store to find features created by tweak developers, estimates anywhere from 6 to 12 percent of iOS users download jailbreak solutions to crack their devices.

Jailbreaking is legal in the United States, but the community every three years has to lobby the Library of Congress to exempt the practice from digital copyright laws. Jailbreaking does compromise the security of your device and there have been instances when account information has been extracted from jailbroken phones through malware.

What does a jailbroken device look like? The short answer: Anyway you want.

Cult of Mac interviewed three developers who have large followings for the tweak features they design for jailbroken iOS devices. They provide a range of services, from redesigned icons, customized lockscreens that let you add widgets and notifications, to an ability to change the color of your keyboard.

Even pink, if you like.

Jr

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Greenbay is a homescreen widget created by Jr that lets users change the design of their homescreen.
Photo: Jr/junesiphone.com

Jr is a freelance designer who enjoys bringing “one-page loveliness to iOS.” The Mississippian created an add-on to the lockscreen that gives users the option to change the background picture and add elements such as weather, battery, signal and different clocks. These are called themes.

He has also created an app, LockPlus, that lets you create screenshots inside the frame of the phone.

While Android devices allow user customization, jailbreakers like their Apple devices, he said. They just want to add functions that fit their workflow. He also said Apple benefits from jailbreakers because the community often finds bugs for Apple.

“I would love to know what they thought of this, I would love to see their perspective,” Jr said. “They don’t interact with the jailbreak community. (Through jailbreaking), we get to see a side of Apple most people don’t.”

However, features brought to iOS first by the jailbreak community have appeared on iOS updates, and Apple now offers a reward to developers who find bugs.

Check out Jr on his website.

Frenchitouch

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Frenchitouch’s retro take on icons.
Photo: Frenchitouch

This 33-year-old freelance UI/UX designer who lives in the south of France is known for giving the common icon and total makeover. He’ll change the colors, shapes, make them look retro, and hollow them out just to name a few of his many tweaks.

He would not disclose his name because he wants his work created by that name kept separate from the brand he created tweaking icons.

On his website and Instagram feed, is his reworked portrait of Steve Jobs sticking out his tongue.

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Add a 3D and transparent look to your icons.
Photo: Frenchitouch

 

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The gold and metal series will bring bing to your icons.
Photo: Frenchitouch

“It is a pleasure to have my work on the phone,” Frenchitouch said.

He first customized an LG phone but when it went down, he switched to the iPhone 3G. “It became a revelation,” he said. “iOS is the best , the fluidity of the user experience has changed everything. I missed one thing — having a unique device, so I started to search how to jailbreak.”

Frenchitouch has several galleries of icon tweaks you can peruse.

Matchstic

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Matt Clarke, a.k.a Matchstic, thinks you should be able to put all sorts of stuff on your lockscreen.
Photo: Matt Clarke

As a computer science major at a university in Nottingham, England, Matt Clarke has to budget his time, which may be why he uses his spare time to make tweaks that focus on organizing.

Unlocking your phone to check weather is an unnecessary step, so the tweak developer known as Matchstic created Convergence. This allows a user to add weather info, an RSS reader, calendar and other widgets to the lockscreen.

Clarke has even added APIs for HTML/JS and Objective-C developers to create new widgets for the screen.

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Matt Clarke wants you to reimagine your lockscreen.
Photo: Matt Clarke

 

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Select important notifications and left swipe on the lockscreen to see them.
Photo: Matt Clarke

“Design doesn’t just run skin deep,” Clarke wrote on his website. “It’s the way something works. It’s the way you interact with something. Sometimes, design must evolve. It needs to take a new direction.”

Clarke first learned jailbreaking with an iPod Touch five years ago. He played with tweaks in Cydia, eventually got a Mac and taught himself coding.

Clarke’s work can be found here on his website.

To see an iPhone jailbreak without a computer, watch the video below created by Jr.