Jail breaking is the process by which Apple’s operating systems are modified to remove restrictions & give the greater user control over the device. These modifications typically allow running unsigned code, as well as reading & writing to the root file system, both of which are normally prevented by Apple. The increased privileges permit customization & unfettered app installation which are not available to users with a stock device. Jail breaking is most popular on, & most associated with, Apple’s mobile operating system OS, though it also exists on tvOS & watch OS.
Typically, jail breaking adds an unofficial application installer to your device which lets you download 3rd-party applications, tweaks, & extensions that are unavailable through the App Store. These packages open up the endless possibilities to do things on your OS device that a non-jail broken OS device would never be able to do. The most famous & largest of these application installers is called cydia.
Cydia houses tweaks which customize the look, feel, behavior, & capabilities of your device in myriad ways, bypass limitations set in place by Apple & carriers, connect to other devices remotely, & generally let you take back your iOS experience.
Jailbreaking is about freeing your Apple devices to let you use the products which you paid for in any way you want.
Is Jailbreaking Legal?
First, let’s clear up the common misconception: jail breaking is completely legal in the US. There was a time, prior to the 2010, when jail breaking was implied to be illegal by the US government, due to its relevance in breach of copyright litigation. However, for many years now the government has periodically upheld the status of jail breaking as explicitly legal, & exempted it from broader issues of copyright law.
The status in the other countries varies, but generally falls into “neither legal nor illegal provided it is not used for copyright infringement, & never going to the law court anyway. Even if you don’t live in the United States, there’s almost no chance that Apple would come after you for jail breaking your device. It hasn’t happened a single time, in any country, despite the flourishing community jail breaking since 2007.
Please note the important distinction: the act of jail breaking is not illegal.
However, any crimes you commit on the device will remain illegal. If you use your jailbreak to illegally torrent movies, download paid apps for free, or commit other cyber & copyright crimes, you’re still breaking the law. Stick to using the jailbreak to set up your device the way you want it, not to steal.
What are the benefits of Jail breaking?
The main reason people jailbreak is to install third-party applications & tweaks that Apple couldn’t or wouldn’t approve in the App Store. There are many applications that don’t meet Apple’s guidelines, or that do things that Apple forbids on iOS devices. Tweaks don’t exist on the App Store at all, as they are not applications. They are additions, extensions, or adjustments to already-installed applications, & to the operating system itself.
For example, Apple doesn’t allow you to customize the general user interface of your device. Thanks to the jailbreak community, there are many tweaks that completely change the way your iPhone looks, whether it be hiding icon names, changing icons, adding more than four applications to the dock, adding a dark mode or applying an entire theme, sounds & all.
If you value the function over aesthetics, jailbreaking can cater for you too. Functionality tweaks, which bring the subtle improvements to the way your iOS device operates, are also popular. Swiping across keyboard to move text cursor rather than the fiddling with the magnifying glass, setting your phone to perform complex events in response to certain button combinations, turning off read receipts in third-party messengers, installing apps from unknown sources, connecting wirelessly to other devices via SSH, displaying Wi-Fi channel & strength information, the list goes on and on. If you have ever been bothered by a small aesthetic or functional hindrance in Apple’s OS, chances are there’s a package on Cydia to get it just the way you want it.
Can I still use the App Store & iTunes App after Jailbreaking?
Yes, you can use iTunes & App Store after jail breaking your device. As the matter of fact, nothing will really change. The only small annoyance is that some App Store apps, such as banking apps, include jailbreak detection which prevents them from running when jail broken. This can be the circumvented for most apps with a tweak. The most notable change to your iOS device will be that, after the jail breaking, you will have a new application installed called Cydia.
Does Jail breaking prevent me from updating iOS?
If your iOS device is jailbroken & you decide to update it to the latest version of iOS, you will lose the jailbreak. As latest version of the iOS does not normally have a jailbreak available, this normally means having to wait for a new tool to jailbreak the newer firmware. This might not be the big problem for most people, who are happy to lose their jailbreak in exchange for newer stock features, but it is avoided by those who rely on a lot of jailbreak apps & tweaks. Serious jailbreakers tend not to update their devices so that they can keep their jailbreaks, & the only update after a tool for a newer iOS firmware is released.
Each iOS update patches any jailbreak which worked for previous ones, & hackers have to start again to make a tool. They generally are not too far behind with an update for the tools that let you jailbreak, though it has been getting harder in recent times, making staying on a jail breakable firmware more valuable. If a new iOS version & accompanying jailbreak are released, the preferred method is to back up your device first, fully restores & update your device to the required the iOS version, then jailbreak again using the released tool.
Different types of Jail breaking?
There are four types of jailbreak: tethered, semi-tethered, semi-untethered, & untethered. The first two is uncommon, & aren’t much use to the average user. Nearly all the recent jailbreaks have been semi-untethered, which means that after every reboot you must re-run the jailbreak app on your device. This reactivates your jailbreak to let you use all your tweaks. Your device will work normally as the stock un-jailbroken device until you do this. Untethered jailbreaks are the becoming rarer due to the difficulty in building them, but don’t have the limitations of a semi-untethered tool. An untethered jailbreak is persistent, meaning you can reboot your iOS device without having to re-jailbreak each time.