For millions of happy users all over the world, the iPhone is fantastic just as it is. It’s beautiful, elegant, easy to use and there are thousands of apps and oodles of content for them to choose on the App Store. And then there are the people who aren’t so happy. People who want to break free of the restrictions they believe Apple has forced upon us all – from the default apps that come with iOS to the fact its underlying structure can’t be customized by individual programmers, third party developers and even users themselves. These unhappy people are the jailbreakers. And Apple has been playing a cat-and-mouse game with them ever since the iPhone launched in January 2007.
It’s easy to understand the jailbreakers’ frustration. On the Mac you can pretty much do whatever you want. If you don’t want to use Mail for email or Safari for surfing, you can download alternatives such as Sparrow or Firefox instead. Heck, you can even set them to be the default apps if you want, enabling you to ignore Mail, Safari and so on altogether.
This isn’t the case on the iPhone. While many great alternatives to iOS’s default apps do exist, you’ll find that iOS always reverts to the defaults for certain things. Try clicking on an email address or a URL in an app, a document or webpage and Mail and Safari will almost always boot up first, no matter which other alternatives you use.
Jailbreakers are frustrated by other things too: the fact that you can’t do simple things like change the iPhone’s default look and feel, take control of internet downloads or install apps other than those available from the iOS App Store. If you’re brave enough or wise enough (or foolish enough), you can easily tinker with the underpinnings of OS X using things like Terminal or rummaging around in the Library folder. No legitimate equivalent for users exist in iOS. You can only do what Apple lets you do. Unless you jailbreak your iPhone, that is.
So what is jailbreaking?
Jailbreaking is the act of changing the iPhone software to remove any limitations placed by Apple. The principal limitation is that software can only be installed from the App Store. With a jailbroken phone you can install software from a rival to the App Store, and also manually using files downloaded from the internet.
Jailbreaking is different to iPhone unlocking. iPhones (like all mobile phones) that are sold as part of a contract are often locked to a particular network. This means that if you buy an iPhone from O2, for example, you have to use an O2 SIM card in it. The iPhone is ‘locked’ to that network. Unlocking the iPhone turns it from an iPhone that can only work on the O2 network to one that can work on any network. But you will still be running officially sanctioned iOS software, and still have the software limitations. Unlocking is considered a breach of your mobile phone contract. See: How to unlock an iPhone.
Can you jailbreak iOS 8?
Yes! Jailbreaking is presently a pastime for those on ANY version of iOS 8, and most versions on iOS 7. Each time Apple releases a new version of iOS, the jailbreak teams get to work on the code, doing their best to come up with a jailbreak tool for the new OS. iOS 8 launched on 17 September, and at the time of writing there are two different jailbreaks for it.
The even better news is that teams are making optimistic noises about cracking the next version of iOS 8 (8.2). We will discuss the prospects of an iOS 8.2 jailbreak in a future article, and we’ll update that article (and this one) as soon as that jailbreak is announced.
The way you jailbreak your iPhone depends on which version of iOS you’re running. There are plenty of instructions and resources online that can help you, of course you can always call us and we’ll be happy to assist you.
A few reasons to jailbreak your iPhone
It’s your phone! You should be able to do what the heck you like with it, and jailbreaking your iPhone is relatively easy to do and in the US at least, it’s perfectly legal.