What Does Jailbreaking a Phone Mean?


Are you curious or maybe confused about what it means to jailbreak a phone? I was too, before I started digging and finding out more about it. Turns out, it is not quite as complicated (or as technical) as I thought, or as it sounds.

Jailbreaking is taking control of an Apple device

Jailbreak is the term used to indicate that an owner or user of an Apple device has gotten past the restrictions put in place by Apple, that prevent the user from customizing or modifying the phone in certain ways (mostly meaning, preventing you from installing apps or software that Apple doesn’t want you to).

When you jailbreak your phone, you gain “root access” to the phone or device, which then allows you to install or delete what you want.


As an android user, the term jailbreak was unfamiliar, but “rooting” an android phone was something familiar to me. Rooting an android phone is another way to basically say that you got direct access to the code which gives all the instructions to the android device. Jailbreaking appears to be another way to say just about the same thing.

However, with an android phone, you do in most cases, have the ability to install third-party apps away from the Google Play Store, so long as you change the security settings in the phone to allow it. You don’t need root access to the phone to be able to do this (in most cases).

When you install software on a jailbroken phone (or modify the code at the root level), you might install apps or “tweaks.” A tweak is the technical term in the jailbreaking world for modified versions of apps that you might already be familiar with, but it also appears to be the term you might use for an app that was specially created for a jailbroken phone to help a user modify his or her phone in a certain way.

Either way, “tweaking” your jailbroken phone is about taking advantage of your control by making your desired changes.

Why would someone want to jailbreak their Apple device?

There are a lot of reasons. Some people hate that Apple controls the device, what you can and can’t do with it. This irks a lot of people, especially since they paid a lot of money for the phone, but can’t really seem to receive all the benefits of ownership of the phone. Apple controls the phone despite the fact that it has sold it to a customer.

Some people really dislike the apps and setup that comes stock from the manufacturer, and want to change it. We all know the pain and annoyance of not being able to get rid of stock apps that are so obviously not useful and only a way for Apple (or the carrier) to generate income from us. Others just really love to customize their phones, from changing the look (like fonts, colors, set up).

Others really want to take advantage of apps/software that Apple does not approve of. There are a lot of really talented third-party developers out there. Some of what they produce doesn’t get approved to be sold or downloaded through the Apple store. Without Apple approval, these apps would never get into the hands of users/customers. For example, with a jailbroken device, you can use your iPhone as a broadband modem, or as a Wi-Fi hot spot, without having to pay premium charges to your carrier (tethering).

Jailbreaking can also potentially make it possible for you to take your phone to another carrier.

Is jailbreaking the same as unlocking a device?

Nope. Jailbreaking is about getting access to the phone to modify it. Unlocking is about getting to take your phone to the cell service carrier of your choice, without having to buy the handset of that particular carrier.

Is jailbreaking legal?

This is a great question, and might differ depending upon where you live. The primary law that people swung around was the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This act was recently modified to create an exemption to the DMCA to exempt jailbreaking from it.

Honestly, it seems like the law itself is not exactly clear, and neither is enforcement of it. Apple seems to be sort of blah about doing anything about it. Outwardly, the company represents that it is against jailbreaking, but given its lack of action to really try and curb it (and its begrudging acceptance of the assistance of jailbreakers who identify bugs, holes, and other operating system problems), it is really hard to say that people shouldn’t jailbreak their phones because of legal issues.

So Apple supports jailbreaking?

I didn’t say that. Apple has been very clear that Apple may deny service for any iDevice that has had unapproved software installed on it. (The same is true in some cases for rooted Android phones). Jailbreaking also most likely voids your warranty.

Is every version of iOS jailbroken immediately?

No, actually, every version is not jailbroken immediately. Because Apple outwardly states that it is against jailbreaking, it frequently includes hardware and software updates and fixes to try and prevent jailbreaking, or to repair any vulnerability which provides the opportunity for the jailbreak. It can take some time to work through the fixes, so jailbreaks for new operating systems or updates to them usually come later after the iOS update or new system is released.

What are the dangers of jailbreaking?

Well the first one is pretty obvious, I think. You can “brick” your phone. When I say “brick” I mean that you may end up making some change to your phone that causes it to become unstable, function badly, die, stop working completely, end up destroyed beyond repair. Basically, sits dead and quiet and heavy, and about as useful as a brick.

If you mess around with the code running your phone at the very basic level, it isn’t hard to make a mistake, or realize after the fact that what you thought you had done was not actually what you did.


And Apple isn’t excited to save you. If they can prove that you jailbroke your phone, your warranty goes bye-bye and they won’t help you fix the problem you created.

Next, and only slightly less problematic is the risk of downloading bad stuff onto your device when you get unapproved apps or tweaks. Jailbreaking makes your device more vulnerable to malware, and in most cases, most malware incidents that occur involving iOS users involve jailbroken devices.

All for naught?

You can do a lot of work to customize your phone just right, and then suffer the Armageddon of an update. Your phone auto-updates to the new iOS system, or downloads some patches or fixes, and your old twaeks or apps might not work ever again.

Should you jailbreak your phone?

This comes down to personal preference, I think. If you are willing to accept the risks, and you have enough technical expertise to avoid bricking your phone, then why not? But if you are a newbie to the idea and have no clue what you are doing, I would wait, spend some more time reading and researching, and get into this world slowly.

What do you think? Do it? Let us know in the comments section.

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