Is jailbreaking still a thing these days?
Robert Triggs / Android Authority
Ever since the launch of the first iPhone, advanced users have been looking for ways to unlock the full potential of Apple’s iOS operating system. In 2007, the first iOS jailbreak allowed users to set custom ringtones, install third-party games, and customize the home screen. Over the years, however, Apple has taken inspiration from many jailbreak-only features and baked them directly into iOS. With that in mind, is it still worth jailbreaking an iPhone or iPad? Here’s what you need to know.
See also: Do iPhones get viruses?
What is jailbreaking and why is it popular?
Jailbreaking involves using an exploit in a locked operating system such as iOS to gain root (superuser) access. With root or system level access, you can remove software locks and other restrictions. As mentioned above, people have been jailbreaking the iPhone in one way or another for over 15 years now. Early iOS versions didn’t offer many of the smartphone features we now take for granted, motivating advanced users to find a way around Apple’s restrictions. Hence the term “jailbreak”.
For example, copy and paste functionality did not exist on the first iPhone. Similarly, you couldn’t use the device on any mobile carrier – motivating even more users to look for a way to unlock the device. During the first year, developers found and exploited a security hole in the iPhone’s Safari browser to gain full access to the underlying system. From there, it wasn’t long before third-party apps, games, and even an alternative app store became available.
Jailbreaking allows you to sideload apps and customize various aspects of the standard iOS experience.
In subsequent years, jailbreaking allowed users to install emoji, themed status bars, customize the home screen, switch to third-party keyboards, and more. And while many of these features are now part of the core iOS experience, many advanced users still rely on jailbreaking to bypass limitations. Sideloading apps, for example, are severely limited compared to Android — unless you pay for an Apple-approved developer account. Similarly, jailbreaking is the only way to completely overhaul core aspects of iOS and iPadOS such as the lock screen, status bar, and control center.
Is iOS jailbreaking still a thing?
David Imel / Android Authority
Apple has actively opposed jailbreaking since its inception, claiming that it can compromise device security and stability on devices such as the iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV. This is despite Android smartphone manufacturers such as Samsung and Google offering users the ability to bypass device restrictions and install unofficial software. So with iOS devices, hackers and security experts must reverse-engineer parts of the operating system to find a viable jailbreak method—and hope it goes unnoticed.
Finding a jailbreak involves reverse engineering new iOS releases every year to find exploitable security holes.
As you’d expect, Apple frequently issues software updates that fix security holes and other potential exploits that can be used by jailbreaking tools. And like most other tech companies, it also offers handsome bounties to third-party security researchers, encouraging them to disclose exploits privately rather than publicly. For these reasons, the iOS jailbreak community is now much smaller than in the past.
But while it has become increasingly difficult for the shrinking developer community to find exploits, you can still jailbreak many recent Apple products. However, the exact process can vary quite a bit depending on the device and iOS version, so you’ll need to search forums like Reddit’s r/jailbreak for the latest instructions.
See also: Where is the iPhone made? The journey from components to final assembly
Should you jailbreak your iPhone or iPad?
Palash Volvoikar / Android Authority
Even today, jailbreaking gives you access to a number of customization options. For example, you can install apps that bring newer iOS features like gesture navigation to older devices and versions. Beyond that, you can also install apps that either remove Apple’s restrictions or modify new functionality in existing apps. Some popular examples include CarBridge and Cercube. You can also find jailbreak tweaks that simply add quality-of-life improvements – Activator, for one, lets you assign custom shortcuts to any gesture or button press.
Jailbreaking allows you to not only escape Apple’s walled garden in the App Store, but also bring new iOS features to older, unsupported devices.
Given these benefits, jailbreaking may seem like a no-brainer. However, there are many hurdles to overcome first. First, your device might not even have a jailbreak available for it yet, or you might have already updated to the latest patched iOS version. And even if you manage to unlock your device, you won’t be able to update to the latest iOS version without losing your jailbreak.
Finally, it is worth repeating the security and stability aspect. If you know what you’re doing, jailbreaking isn’t inherently any more dangerous than an unmodified device. However, banking apps as well as some online games with anti-cheats are likely to detect that you have tampered with your phone’s software and prevent you from using them.
All in all, you need to weigh the pros and cons of jailbreaking for your specific needs and decide if it’s worth the trouble. One thing is for sure though – Apple is constantly working to ensure that users have fewer reasons to jailbreak and stay within the App Store ecosystem.
Read next: 10 things iOS does better than Android