Article 53: Jailbreak!

 Jailbreaking: Getting the Most out of your iPhone

Hi guys, welcome back to the Modern Nerd. This week, I want to peel back a few layers of haze and doubt surrounding Apple’s hottest toy. The iPhone has revolutionized smartphone technology, whether you approve of them or not. They have started a war to make the ultimate all-in-one device that connects to everything, but Apple is not telling you the whole story. Behind their facade that the App Store is all you need is a world of customization options, changes, third party enhancements, and really really cool stuff, and all you have to do is break your phone out of jail. Let’s have a closer look at what I am talking about, and show you how to make it happen, without costing you a penny. The phone was expensive enough.

Hardware is not Software

Duh? Simple enough thought right? Those of us who have been tinkering around with circuitry and building computers for a long time know that software and hardware are two completely separate entities. Here’s what I mean. When you purchase a piece of software, unless it is free or open source, you will agree to a Terms and Conditions page before you are allowed to use it. There’s a lot of fancy lawyer speech in there, but most of us have a good idea of what it says. Don’t steal this software, don’t alter it and try to sell it as your own, don’t make changes to the code, don’t use it to hack the Pentagon’s secure databases… Tying your hands up as many ways as they can think of to follow the classic business principles laid out by CYA.

However, there are no terms and conditions associated with owning hardware. Sure, you might see a reminder that FCC law prevents you from tapping into planes, but for the vast (really really vast) majority of things, once you bought it, you own it.

Smartphones: One Big Grey Matter Nebula

So what is a smartphone? Hardware or software? Arguments are made on both sides of course, but very recently,  in 2012, the ruling in the United States by the Copyright Office has approved the use of jailbreaking software as legal. It does not violate the terms of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). All jailbreaking really is, is an escalation of the privileges  that you have on your hardware. iOS is not affected, nor is the service of the phone affected, and so despite all efforts to the contrary, Apple has had their lawsuit rejected multiple times. It will come back again, I am certain of it. But it’s not likely that three times is their charm.

So what do I get?

When you Jailbreak your phone, you get access to the Cydia App Store. This is a collection of apps, some free and some paid, that come from developers that are not associated with Apple in any way. You can have access to features that change the interface, change the button assignments, change the loading screens, give you extra tools right from the Home screen, and on and on. I could list out all of the cool new features, but it would take the rest of this article, plus one more.

Here’s the bottom line. When you jailbreak your iPhone, you can change anything about it you want. It is the ultimate freedom to do what you want with your own hardware.

Jailbreaking is NOT Unlocking

There is another term floating around in the smartphone nether, called unlocking. I am not going to speak on this topic, but I will address its existence so you don’t confuse the two. Jailbreaking your phone gives it more bells and whistles and overall bumps up the shininess by at least 3 points. Unlocking your phone is not entirely legal, and is used to switch carriers on a device. Unless you are a seasoned hardware guru, don’t mess with this. It could brick your phone.

I’m sold; Tell me how…

The first thing that you need to do is stop updating your Operating System. Apple puts out regular updates to keep as many people on their iOS as possible. Jailbreaking comes out for that version of the iOS a little bit later. You also can’t back up your phone while its jailbroken, but everything is reversible if you just restore the software, so fret not. You are not doing any lasting damage. There are many different versions of the same thing floating around the internet, and hosting such software is another big legal grey area. So you’re on your own. However, I will say that in my own personal experience, 15 minutes of Google and pressing a few buttons did the trick, and if you end up paying for this, then you are doing it wrong.


A rather disturbing trend in devices is DRM (or Digital Rights Management) that is trying to control more facets of how we operate things. Until very recently, software wasn’t even considered property, it was just zeros and ones, so how could it be regulated? It is up to us, as consumers and informed Nerds, to make sure that we retain our access rights to things that we buy. Letting the companies control every aspect of a device that is attached to our bodies a significant portion of our time is not healthy.

Thanks for reading as always. Find more from the Computer Fixer at our Facebook page and our RSS feed. We update our blog every week with fresh content, so be on the lookout for more from the Modern Nerd.

Aaron Krick
Blog Contributor at the Computer Fixer


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