The Joy of Jailbreaking Your iPhone
Apr 30, 2010 5:00 AM PT
When I graduated college some 20 plus years ago, I moved to Overland Park, Kansas. The first weekend in town, I remember going to the local mall. I was on the second floor and needed to go down to the first floor. As I approached the escalator, I noticed that in between the up and down sides was a shiny unobstructed metal surface that led all the way down to the lower level. While the mall owners did not intend to put a "slide" in between the escalators, to me it was just too tempting -- so I jumped on and down I went.
At the bottom I was greeted by a security officer who promptly walked me out of the mall and told me not to come back. Over the next year, I probably was escorted out of the mall a dozen times. The owners of the mall, I was told, just wanted me to stand there and let the escalator move me to the lower level -- how boring. Sadly, today there are metal bumps in the middle of escalators to keep people from doing what I used to do.
When it comes to the iPhone and iPod touch, you can have more fun than Apple wants you to -- you just need to remove those "metal bumps" it put up to impede your fun. The process of removing those bumps is called "jailbreaking."
Not How but Why
When Apple announced the new features for iPhone OS 4, it did not list any support for the 6.12 million original iPhones and only limited support for the roughly 20 million 3G iPhones. This means roughly half of all the iPhones in the market will not be able to take advantage of all the features in the new OS.
The first-gen iPod touch is not listed as supported, and the second-gen iPod touch is getting only limited support. While Apple may be (probably is) hoping this helps get most users to upgrade to the latest and greatest iPhone/iPod touch, it will also likely cause many to consider jailbreaking for the first time.
I'm not going to explain how to jailbreak in this column. Rather, I'm going to explain why you might want to. (To learn how, go to TodayiniPhone.com -- http://www.todayiniphone.com -- and on the left side at the bottom are links to tutorials on how to jailbreak.) NOTE: Do not try to jailbreak if you don't like it when things go to (expletive).
If you need your phone for your business and being without it for any period of time will cause you to loose your job -- stop now. If you get mad at your significant other over how towels are folded or which way the toilet paper hangs, then jailbreaking is probably not for your personality. Sometimes things break, and your phone will likely crash more often than if it were not jailbroken.
Multitasking, Bluetooth, Security
One of the key features of OS 4 that only iPhone 3GS and third-gen iPod touch owners will get to use is multitasking. However, there is an app on the jailbreak side called Backgrounder that -- unlike Apple's multitasking -- allows you to place any app into the background; it keeps the whole app running. Combine this with the app Multiflow and you can then scroll left to right through all the apps that are active (in the background).
In OS 4, there are folders to put multiple apps into. With jailbreaking, there is an app called Categories that lets you place apps into folders. There is another app called Overboard that allows you to see all the apps on the 12 homescreens at once. Another app that is a favorite of mine is called FiveiCon Dock. Like it sounds, it lets you place five app icons in your dock.
With OS 4, Apple finally announced Bluetooth keyboard support for the iPhone. With jailbreaking, the app BTstack has been providing that feature for quite some time. Apple also said that with OS 4 you could finally add/change the image behind the homescreen. This is something jailbreakers have been doing for some time with the app Winterboard, which allows for customization of the background image and adds in themes for other images in the iPhone interface.
The app Springlocker allows you to lock down apps so you or someone using your phone cannot accidentally delete or even move an app. This is a feature missing from OS 4. The same with the app Lockdown, which lets you password-protect specific applications from others. With jailbreaking, you can actually make your iPhone more secure than with Apple's out-of-the-box OS.
Walk or Fly?
There are many other great apps that allow you to do things beyond what Apple ever intended or wanted you to be able to do. There is an app called MyWi that turns your iPhone into a mobile WiFi hotspot, which is very nice for tethering your laptop or iPad to your iPhone. A great app for those who do presentations is ScreenSplitr. It allows you to share/mirror your iPhone screen on a TV or a computer.
Another very popular app is 3G Unrestrictor. It makes the iPhone think you are connected to the Web via WiFi and not 3G, thus allowing apps that were restricted for use just on WiFi to actually work on 3G. There are many many more great apps on the jailbreak side that add even more capabilities to your iPhone or iPod touch.
If you want, you can step on to the metaphoric escalator and let Apple move you from point A to point B at its pace, or you can jump onto the strip in the middle of that escalator and feel the wind whip through your hair as you fly down that shiny metal surface. I know which path I am going -- well, except for the hair part.
Rob Walch is host of the Today in iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch podcast.