So, you've heard about jailbreaking, and it sounds intriguing. And dangerous. (But mostly just intriguing.) Here's how to hack your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad—yes, iPad—into an unrestricted, freshly empowered mega-machine.
Jailbreaking: The What and the Why
In buying an iProduct, you're accepting that its fate will be dictated by Apple. They control what kind of apps you install on your device, which of the hardware functions you can exploit to their full potential, and which carrier you can use your iPhone with. They've loosened up on at least one of those fronts in the last year or so, expanding the types of apps available in the App Store, but many—screw that, most—of the same restrictions still apply. Want to install an app that Apple hasn't explicitly approved? Sorry. Want to use an app over 3G that's been designated for Wi-Fi? Nope. Want to tether your phone? Run applications in the background? Change your device theme? Install system-wide gestures? No. Such. Luck.
Enter jailbreaking. In technical terms, to jailbreak is to enable a device to run code, meaning programs or system modifications, that hasn't been sanctioned by Apple. Its roots reach back to a time when there were no apps for iPhone OS, and a clever group of hackers zeroed in on some exploits gave people their first way to install apps on their devices, by way of an underground App Store called Installer. It used to be that you could hack your device simply by visiting a webpage. That was two years ago. Since then, the iPhone and iPod Touch have been given a legit App Store, Apple has closed one security hole after another, and jailbreaking has become alternately more and less difficult, depending which device and software version you have.
But just last week, a Windows and Mac tool called Spirit was released to the world. It's simple, relatively safe, and finally, works on all devices. Every iPod Touch can now be jailbroken to run custom apps. Every iPhone, too. Even the brand new iPad can be hacked. Theming, data tethering, multitasking, console emulation, secret settings, and yes, you filthy thief, even pirated apps: With jailbreak, your iThing is truly yours.