Jailbreaking is not a crime, but the special legal exemptions that make it legal have to me made and re-made every couple of years. As the EFF notes, a deadline is fast approaching, and unless the Librarian of Congress makes a special explicit call that jailbreaking is still OK, it could fall into the realm of illegal.
As iOS gets better and better, with more options for customization and more built-in features that incorporate the tricks old-school jailbreakers went a-tweaking for, jailbreaking isn't quite the must-try trip down a hackery rabbit hole that it used to be. But! It's also easier than ever, and as important as always.
So head over to the EFF's site and voice your support. In the meantime, if you've never been sure exactly what jailbreaking, why it's important, or how to do it: Read on.
What is Jailbreaking anyway? Is it illegal, or dangerous or something?
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, and which of the hardware functions you can exploit to their full potential. 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? Anything that Apple hasn't approved and doesn't condone? Too bad.
Jailbreaking will free you from those bonds. Admittedly, Apple's watchful eye keeps you safe from messily coded apps that can crash your whole phone, and other craziness like that. But when you jailbreak—a completely legal thing to do—you gain entrance to a whole world of possibilities. It's a little wilder out there than it is inside the Apple company town, but as long as you're not an idiot, jailbreaking is an easy, safe, and fun adventure.
When you jailbreak or unlock a device, you're changing some fundamental aspects of the system software—you know, real low-level stuff. The tools are generally good, and if you follow directions carefully, you should be fine. But if something goes wrong you can suffer data loss, so back up first. Beyond that, Apple claims that jailbreaking voids your warranty. You can restore your device to remove evidence that it ever happened, but you're probably going to lose everything you haven't backed up in the process. That said, jailbreaking is totally legal for smartphones thanks to some DMCA exemptions. So just be careful and smart, and everything will be fine.
How To Jailbreak
Jailbreaking your iPhone used to be really hard and complicated. Really, really hard and complicated. But these days it can be as easy as the push of a button. Literally. Unfortunately, Apple's most recent update 8.1.3, is as yet unbroken. But there are ways around that. And if you still have iOS 8.1.2—not the most current version of iOS but the one before it—it's stupid simple:
The first step for jailbreaking anything—ever—is to back up your data first. Things can go wrong, and you don't want to lose everything. So make sure you sync to iTunes or iCloud before you get started. And if you want a really smooth transition, you might want to wipe your phone ahead of time. You don't have to, but it'll speed up the process.
What You Need:
- The Evasi0n Jailbreak tool for whatever OS your computer is running.
- The latest version of iTunes
- A 30 pin/Lightning cable. Whichever fits your device.
- An iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch that's working and not currently jailbroken (duh).
After you've backed up your device (really, you should back up your device) all you have to do is plug it into the computer and then run the downloaded jailbreak app. You'll get a dialog box with a button labeled "Jailbreak." Click it, and then just step away from the computer while the magic happens. Don't mess with anything while it's doing its thing. After a little bit, your phone will reboot and boom, you are jailbroken.
You'll notice you've got a new app on your homescreen, the Cydia Store. This is where all the jailbreak magic happens. In the Cydia Store, you can find a wealth of apps that didn't/couldn't make it into the real App Store. These apps will let you do all kinds of stuff from changing the way your lockscreen works to changing the way your icons and UI look, along with all kinds of other functionality. And don't worry, the normal App Store and normal Apps still work too.
If you're looking for places to start exploring, the ModMyi community and Reddit's r/jailbreak are good places to start. You'll want to keep in mind that Cydia doesn't vet its apps the same way Apple does, but dangerous trash will appear as such to the keen eye, so there's not much to worry about. And when in doubt, just do some Googling. There is a lot of info out there, and plenty of people who will be glad to give you some advice if you ask nicely.
I don't like it. Make it stop!
So you want to go back to jail. Can't hack it on the outside after all these years? That's understandable; jailbreaking isn't for everyone. Fortunately, going back isn't too hard.
- The first step, again, is to back up your device. Especially if you've done anything during your jailbreak time that you don't want to lose.
- Connect your device to your computer, go into iTunes, find it on the left-hand bar, and click restore. This will get rid of all your jailbreak-age and give you a fresh, clean device.
- Restore from back-up. If you're going to be taking your device to the Apple store or want ALL jailbreak evidence gone for whatever reason, you'll want to restore from the backup you did before you jailbroke (obviously). If that's not a big deal, you can restore right from your jailbroken backup. It'll bring over some old garbage jailbreak data that doesn't work anymore, but other than that, the restore will work just fine.
But most of all, have fun
Jailbreaking is all about taking the training wheels off and getting in touch with your inner tinkerer. If the prospect of getting some new functionality at the cost of a few very minor scrapes and bruises sounds like fun to you, get to it. If it sounds like a pain, it's probably not going to be worth your trouble.
If you've got any tips, do's and don'ts, places to start, or MUST HAVE jailbreak apps, drop that goodness down below. It's a big wide world out there, and trading tips is the best way to see all the good parts. Happy jailbreaking!