Starting our fourth decade: Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously online for 30 years


Jailbreaking: What's in it for you?

June 30, 2013

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2013, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2013, The Post-Standard

Last week I explained why some iPhone users aren't willing to put up with the limitations Apple puts on iPhone (and, indeed, iPad) users -- owners can't get their apps from anywhere other than Apple's official store, are unable to use their iPhone as a Wi-Fi hotspot, and can't add functions that aren't pre-approved by Apple. By "Grandma Apple," you might say.

This is dumb to say the least. Apple's big competitor, Android, has no such limitations, and as a result a lot of potential iPhone users have bought Android smartphones instead. Android phones have a 5-4 lead in market share over iPhones.

So far, Apple has simply ignored the problem. It's almost surely not going to change the way its devices work just because of competition. That's not Apple's way.

This has left Apple's faithful with a second choice besides jumping ship: They can jailbreak their iPhones. It's not illegal, it's reversible, and it enables all sorts of functions that Apple ordinarily locks out. (For more on this, read last week's column here: www.technofileonline.com/texts/tec062313.html.)

Jailbreaking is cool. You can turn your standard iPhone into one that can:
  • Tether (create a hotspot for your laptop, for example)
  • Use a mouse
  • Call up Siri without touching your phone
  • Change to a better on-screen keyboard
  • Add live widgets (an Android specialty) to your screen
  • Copy, move and delete files using a real file manager
  • Allow all apps to use 3G connections (many currently work only on Wi-Fi)
  • Run multiple apps on-screen at the same time.
  • And much, much more.

    Jailbreaking costs nothing and it's relatively easy. If you have a 14-year-old in your house or neighborhood, you're home free. Just barter some cookies, pizza or pool time for having jailbreaking done by the kid. (My motto: 14-year-olds can do anything, because they're old enough to know a lot and too young to realize that some stuff is just too hard to do.)

    The main app store for jailbroken iPhones and iPads is Cydia, at http://cydia.saurik.com. If you have a relatively new iPhone or iPad, click the "evasi0n" link at the Cydia site. Otherwise click the "redsn0w" link.

    A few words of caution: If it's not done right, jailbreaking can turn your phone into, well, a brick. (That's why you'll see the word "bricking" at jailbreak sites.) Don't jailbreak your phone if you're not adventurous, and don't blame me if something goes wrong. Please don't shoot the messenger.