Risks & benefits of jailbreaking your iPhone

October 4, 2010

Jailbreaking explained

Running unofficial apps and tweaks on your iPhone is known as jailbreaking. Customising your phone entails ‘hacking’ or modifying your iPhone’s operating system and allows the phone to run software that has not been approved by Apple. The first iPhone 4 jailbreak was posted online in August this year. The jailbreak code is a tweaked version of Apple’s own software and reliable evidence suggests that one in ten iPhones are now jailbroken. But before you embark on the necessary modifications – typically altering less than 50 bytes of an 8Mb operating programme- consider the costs and benefits of this step.

The benefits

If you jailbreak, or modify, your iPhone you are able to do things on it that are not available through official Apple channels. For example, you could make video calls on your iPhone network instead of over wifi. You would be able to add new features to your browser, or add facilities developed by Apple’s arch rivals, such as Google’s internet telephone service.

Jailbreakers enjoy the sense of freedom to be able to shop outside the iTunes store for apps sold by alternative app stores. Cydia is an extremely popular choice with jailbreakers and their app VoipOver3G fools your jailbroken phone into thinking it is connected over wifi rather than 3G – thus allowing you to make internet phone calls over mobile broadband – forbidden by many networks. A defining characteristic of third-party apps is that they anticipate improvements needed by Apple users. For example, even 12 months ago unofficial apps enabled functions such as downloadable themes and wallpapers, multi-tasking and the ability to save apps into folders – these are all features that have been incorporated into the new iOS 4 operating system for the iPhone 4.

The risks

Apple is fully aware of the increasing number of jailbroken iPhones and recently lost a legal battle to prevent consumers modifying their phones – the US Copyright Office stated that such small modifications to the operating system constitutes ‘fair use’ of Apple’s software. Apple says there are good reasons it does not approve of downloading software that hasn’t been through a strict vetting procedure as it carries a great risk (and 30% loss of revenue to App Store). Your jailbroken iPhone could be corrupted and fail to work properly, or be infected by third-party malicious apps – Apple will not repair jailbroken phones under warrenty.

If you decide the risks are worth the benefits – the iPhone 4 jailbreak is fairly easily carried out through the iPhone. By directing your browser to jailbreakme.com and following the instructions. However, make sure you have an escape route if things start to get out of hand- back up your phone in iTunes before you make any moves to jailbreak. Then, if it all goes wrong, you can restore your original system and Apple should never know. The latest and popular iPhone jailbreaking tool RedSnOw 0.9.6b1 will jailbreak iOS 4.1 on iPhone 3G (but not on 3GS or 4).

Beware,  if you unlock your phone to enable you to use a Sim from a mobile network other than the one who sold you the phone, your tinkering could result in permanent damage. Unlocking can permanently alter the handset’s hardware and is detectable both by Apple and the network providers – rendering it unusable. In the UK (unlike the US)  it is not really sensible, or necessary, to unlock your phone illegally as all UK networks will legitimately unlock an iPhone for you (except Vodafone).

It might be safer to upgrade your handset to an iPhone 4 and enjoy all the benefits without the risks. Why not check out the current deals on our website?


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