iOS jailbreaking is gaining administrative or root accessibility to the iOS operating system (OS). Most smartphones, tablet computers, gaming consoles, and other similar devices have Digital Rights Management (DRM) software atop. Jailbreaking helps break the DRM restrictions, besides letting tweak other aspects of the operating system. Similarly, Apple determines what apps make it to its app store. Jailbreaking lets users escape these hurdles and install unapproved apps and perform a host of other out-of-the-box alterations to the OS. Simply put, jailbreaking is being able to do more with iOS than Apple would like its users to. However, jailbreaking doesn’t mean the user has access to every aspect of iOS.

Image credit: Flickr
Image credit: Flickr

To jailbreak an iOS device, specific tools such as Pangu, TaiG, JailBreakMe, PPJailbreak, Evasion, etc. are needed. Different iOS versions may require specific tools. For example, Evasion is used to jailbreak iOS 6 and 7. TaiG, on the other hand, can jailbreak iOS 8.0 to iOS 8.4. Quite a few of these tools can also get rid of the jailbreak and restore the device to its original settings. Jailbreaking isn’t restricted to iOS. In the world of Android, jailbreaking is commonly referred to as “rooting”.

Advantages

Such unofficial access lets iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod, etc.) users to do things that are not otherwise possible or are restricted for regular users. With jailbreaking, users can download extensions, apps, ringtones, themes, games, etc. not available via the official app store, and customize their devices further. For example, the default web browser or email app can be changed on iOS with jailbreaking.

Jailbreaking is basically looking for any iOS security flaw and exploiting it further. With jailbreaks, Apple learns what’s lacking in iOS in terms of security, so that it can take its OS further close to being foolproof and make it difficult for users to manipulate the system with malicious intent.

Disadvantages

Apple doesn’t endorse jailbreaking as that makes its devices less secure or reliable, since the unofficial applications could access restricted or hidden parts of the operating system. And some of these apps could need unrestricted access to the OS for the wrong reasons. Moreover, these vulnerabilities make the device a soft target for malware attacks or hackers.

There are also possibilities the device may lose its smoothness or lag-free functionality. Apple takes care of both the software and hardware of its devices, and when unauthorized apps or software are installed, the hardware may have a hard time handling the software, often presenting unexpected results. Some apps installed after jailbreaking have also been accused of eating up battery life and/or data. Not to mention, jailbreaking voids the device’s warranty as it violates Apple’s end user license agreement. Also, jailbreaking can brick the device or render it unusable. Fortunately, that’s extremely unlikely.

Jailbreaking prevents a user from updating to a recent OS version that doesn’t have jailbreak codes ready for it yet. For instance, the jailbreak for iOS 7 came out on 22 December, 2013 – that’s three months after iOS 7 was officially released by Apple on 16 September, 2013. People who wanted to update their device to iOS 7 without letting go their jailbreak modifications had to wait for three months to have the recent OS installed and running on their device.

Preparing the Device

Before starting the jailbreaking process, the device must be backed up using iTunes, so that if anything goes wrong, the device can be completely restored. Since the process may take some time, the device must have sufficient battery juice left (usually more than 80 percent charge). It may get damaged if it shuts off during the process. The device must be set to Airplane Mode so that it stays unperturbed during the operation. And, of course, a reliable Internet connection is required.

To Jailbreak or Not?

Jailbreaking added immense value during the early years of iOS. However, with official iOS updates and Apple introducing features that were once available only through jailbreaking, taking the back door doesn’t seem worth the time and effort anymore. As far as specific apps are concerned, the App Store has millions of apps and there are not many unofficial apps that offer utilities an official iOS app cannot provide.

But those who are in favor of jailbreaking believe Apple wouldn’t have introduced new features such as home screen backgrounds, multitasking, improved notifications, etc. if jailbreaking didn’t exist. The company may have incorporated features later on but jailbreaking certainly quickened things up for Apple and its users.

Jailbreaking and the Law

Jailbreaking is both legal and illegal, depending on who is asked the question. According to the American government, jailbreaking is legal. Users have no apparent issue with jailbreaking either, as it’s only meant to benefit them, if done right. However, quite understandably so, Apple and similar entities are not happy with the jailbreaking culture and want the practice outlawed.