Jailbreaking, a term almost certainly invented by a geek who wanted his hobby to sound cooler than it is, refers to removing software restrictions that Apple has imposed onto your iOS device. Removing these restrictions has numerous benefits, but can tinkering with your phone in ways unintended by the developer have negative consequences on the security or even usability of your phone? Let’s weigh the pros and cons to find out.
You get to jazz up your iPhone as you please
If you want to express your individuality by adding a splash of color to your smartphone UI, go right ahead… unless it’s an iPhone. Part of Apple’s brand strategy is a unified look and feel, and the ability to customize and add your own whimsy to icons and menus unfortunately conflicts with that. Jailbreaking is the best (but not only) way to get around this arguably silly limitation.
You can install whichever apps you want
A lot of the limitations Apple imposes on both users and developers of the the App Store are, bluntly put, unfair. Those in the Apple ecosystem are limited to apps that get past the company’s inconsistent and draconian censorship standards. The only way to get around them is to jailbreak your phone.
You can tinker with the file system
To really be able to pop under the hood your of your phone and expose its inner workings, you’ll want access to its file system. Jailbroken phones can use SSH clients to remotely access their phones to fix corrupted files or install third-party apps.
NOTE: If you do this, then for the love of Mikko, change the SSH password of your device: the default is alpine and everyone knows it, making you a sitting duck to hackers on any public network.
You can stick it to the man
This might seem like a silly reason, but some of us just don’t like being told what to do. If we spend the cost of a really good smart phone + Apple tax on a product, it seems only fair that we can do with it what we want with them. This sounds fair and good, as long as you remember that this act of defiance comes with a few risks…
Your phone might turn into a brick
….such as “bricking” your phone. A bricked phone is one that doesn’t boot (and is therefore as useful as a brick). Simply jailbreaking your phone will not brick it, but it does open a whole world of risk. Think of your iPhone as a car: opening the front hood won’t do any damage on its own, but you better know what you’re doing when you approach it with a spanner.
Your warranty is voided
Not only is your phone at risk of turning into a shiny paperweight, your warranty will most likely be void. While it is possible to undo a jailbreak, when the phone won’t turn on you will have to pay all the repairs or a new phone out of your own pocket. Whether the phone broke because of jailbreaking or because you fell off your fixie bike won’t make a difference.
You can lose access to content
Sometimes jailbreaking can work against itself. Many jailbreak their phones to access more content, but can unwittingly lose access to other services in the process. Apple doesn’t seem to be very active in blocking jailbroken phones from their services, but there have been reports of third-party providers blocking jailbroken devices. This is not currently known to be a huge issue, but as a VPN provider we have firsthand experience to the strange whims of digital content services.
Your security is compromised
Jailbreaking is essentially defeating the security of your phone, so it should come to no surprise that jailbroken phones are vulnerable. Even if you change the default root password (once again: please do), you are still at bigger risk of being hurt by malware. We might occasionally complain about the business practices of the App Store, but the fact remains that it is next to impossible to sneak malware into an App Store app.
Jailbreaking is certainly not for everyone. It’s for those who want to be in control of their devices, get more out of their devices and maybe get some satisfaction out of breaking the rules that Apple has imposed onto them. There are many risks, but they can be mitigated if you know what you are doing.
However, the rational part of my brain can’t help but wonder: If you really want to download all the apps you want, customize and tinker with your phone as much as your heart desires and generally stick it to Apple, why not just get an Android?