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What Is Jailbreaking?

Owning a smartphone gives us access to a world of things that, even just ten years ago, seemed impossible. However, there are still many restrictions on mobile devices and, as such, some users make attempts to remove these through a process called jailbreaking.

Whilst this may sound like an illegal activity involving a prison riot, it is a lot less illicit.
One of the most confusing aspects of jailbreaking for many smartphone users is how readily the term is thrown around on internet forums and in the tech industry. It’s a widely-used term that isn’t so widely understood.

This article will provide an insight into what jailbreaking is and whether it is something that would ramp up the use of your device – on, in contrast, something that you should leave well alone.

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What Is Jailbreaking?

The term jailbreaking refers to a process of ‘unlocking’ a smartphone in order to have greater control over the software and what the phone is, or isn’t able to do. For the most part, this process is used for iOS devices; the iPhone.

While these are some of the most popular and widely-used smart devices on the market, their capabilities are, in fact, very limited when compared to their react rivals – Android. Unlike Android phones, Apple devices do not give you the ability to customise the user interface as deeply and the apps that are ‘allowed’ by Apple tend to be pretty limited. That being said, many iOS users have been loyal to the operating system from its advent and switching to a different platform is more hassle than it is worth. For this reason, many of these users opt to jailbreak their devices, giving them much more freedom.

It is important to note that, while most cases of jailbreaking happen on Apple devices, the process is entirely possible on other systems, including Android and Amazon. It is also worth keeping in mind that, whilst jailbreaking is, for the most part, perfectly legal, doing so will likely void any warranty on your device – so do this at your own risk.

How Does Jailbreaking Work?

The process of jailbreaking works by the user removing any restrictions places by Apple (or another software developer). It can give the user access to any of the following things, which they could not access before the jailbreak:

  • The ability to download apps from unauthorized locations

  • Use outside apps as defaults when specific tasks are launched – for example, when clicking on a web link, you can select a browser other than Safari as your default browser.

  • Explore far more customization options where the UI is concerned – giving you the sleek, usable experience of Apple combined with the creative flair you can express with Android

  • Avoid using the mobile hotspot feature when connecting the iPhone to a Mac PC.

  • One of the significant downsides is that when Apple releases its new software updates, a jailbroken device will not receive these through the usual channels. Instead, you will be required to obtain ‘hacks’ from the jailbreaking community in order to access, download, and install the new software.

Jailbreaking is done by using a jailbreaking app – it isn’t a complicated process provided that you have the right information. However, for each version of iOS, an updated version of the app is required.

There are three main ways of jailbreaking the device, these are known as tethered, semi-tethered, and untethered. A tethered jailbreak is done by connecting the phone to a computer and using this to support the app installation. However, this option is not so frequently used with modern phones since it requires a new installation every time the phone is restarted.

For this reason, those within the jailbreaking community went on to develop an untethered method by which the app could be installed without the phone being attached to a computer.
As you can imagine, the semi-tethered method sits neatly in the middle and doesn’t require a computer, but the jailbreak will need to be reinstalled when the device restarts.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Jailbreaking A Phone?

In the early days of the iPhone, back in 2007, there was a lot more jailbreaking going on than there is today. This is simply because Apple has given its users more freedom with each software update – just look at the long-sought-after release of Dark Mode in 2019, which gave users a little more leeway in terms of visuals on the screen. Furthermore, early models did not have an app store, and this significantly limited what the phones could achieve, but the Apple app store is now extremely diverse and offers a wide range of apps and games for every walk of life.

This is enough for some users, but others still feel as though their smartphones are too restricted, but don’t want to make the switch to another OS. In this case, users are still jailbreaking their phones – but even once you’ve answered the questions of ‘what is jailbreaking?’ You’re still left wondering if this is a safe process – after all, you’ve likely heard many cautionary tales.

Is It Safe?

People who have performed a jailbreak on their phone will likely swear by the process, whereas those who are new to the idea are sure to be a little more careful.

Jailbreaking an iPhone is not something that should be done if you are in any doubt as to what you are doing, for this reason, many tech experts – ourselves included, would not recommend carrying out the process. That being said, it certainly won’t break your phone. In some cases, however, it may cause some issues with the phone that leave it operating in a fashion that you didn’t quite want or expect.

But one of the main concerns for those who have decided to take the leap and jailbreak their phone is that the device is left far more wide open to malware and viscous digital attacks. In some cases, as happened back in 2015, this could lead to hackers being able to access your private information, including your Apple login details.

Pros

  • There are far more choices when it comes to apps for jailbroken iPhones, and this is partially in thanks to the Cydia app store.

  • Android phones are well known for their ability to change the look and feel of the device – unique app icons and spruced up menus, for example. Apple, on the other hand, does not provide this feature with its stock OS, but when you jailbreak your phone, the world is your oyster in terms of customization.

  • You will have the ability to set third-party apps as default as opposed to being restricted to only using Apple apps such as Mail or Safari when performing specific tasks.

  • Jailbreaking the phone gives you access to the files system, which means that you have ultimate control of the phone and can alter, adjust and amend files and apps to your heart’s content.

Cons

  • You are running the risk of other people being able to access your device externally. This can give them access to your personal information and can end up in far worse situations than them just messing with your device settings.

  • The warranty for the phone will be voided.

  • In some cases, the phone can turn into what is known as a brick. This is where the jailbreaking process allows some sort of external damage to occur to the phone, rendering it useless. It is important to note that jailbreaking itself will not cause this to happen, but it does open up a way for things to damage the phone.

  • You will no longer be able to download and install the iOS updates without undoing the jailbreak and having to repeat the process. Most people operating a jailbroken phone have to wait long periods before getting access to the latest updates.

Conclusion

Jailbreaking is a commonly-used process whereby smartphone users can install software that will allow them to bypass any restrictions placed by the original software developer and have greater control over the device and what it can do. For the most part, this process is done on Apple devices that are notorious for not having any many options as their Android counterparts.

Whilst the process will not accuse damage to the phone, it can allow access to unwanted external users which could result in third-party damage that will cause the phone to be useless. Furthermore, when you complete the jailbreaking process, you will void your Apple warranty – this is stated in your device’s instruction manual.

The best way to access the kinds of features that jailbreaking can give is to change your phone for one that offers you what you are looking for straight out of the box. This may be painful, to begin with, especially if you’ve been a loyal iPhone user from the get-go, but it does prevent any problems in the long-run

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