Friday, August 06, 2010

Jailbreaking for Dummies (and other stupid iPhone tricks)

Two days after getting his iPhone 3GS, my youngest (the reigning alpha geek in the household) had it jailbroken. Why? Because he could. Ever since he's been ragging on me to jailbreak mine.

I resisted the urge -- primarily because it seemed more hassle than I was willing to invest time in. Unlike some Apple Fanboys, I had no philosophical or aesthetic objections. And I didn't give a shit that Apple argued it was illegal (a specious argument the courts have now throw out). The process to perform jailbreaking can be somewhat convoluted, and frankly, I didn't feel like screwing with it.

Enter Web-based jailbreaking.

Just go there in Safari on your iPhone, and follow the extremely simple instructions: slide the control that says "Slide to jailbreak," and wait.

The site cautions you to backup your phone before proceeding: always a good idea. The first time I tried, I was not successful (it happens). Not to worry -- just return to and try again. You may have to turn your phone off and on. There's an FAQ you may want to review as well.

Once complete, you'll reboot and notice a new icon for Cydia, which is where you get apps for your newly liberated phone.

You'll notice it isn't near as user-friendly as the iTunes App Store.

Which brings up the bigger topic: "Jailbreaking for Dummies" is a bit of a tease. Unless you're at least semi-technically competent, the jailbroken way of life is probably not for you. Even with this dead-simple method, using the Cydia app source and managing apps from it is significantly different from doing things the Apple way. You add and remove apps from Cydia -- none of this jiggling icons you delete shit.

And it needs to be said: the jailbreak has given you great power, including the power to completely hose up your phone. And while jailbreaking may now be legal, it will still void your warranty. Don't expect to get much sympathy from the smug bastards at the Genius Bar. That being said, if you screw the pooch here, you can still go into iTunes and do a restore and you're back to a stock phone.

This little bit of sleight-of-hand makes use of a couple of exploits which you can bank on Apple fixing in short order, especially since some jokester performed the web-based jailbreak on a display phone at an Apple store (it's that easy).  So, while works for versions of iOS up to 4.0.1, don't expect it to work on the next firmware upgrade. Most jailbreakers wait for the re-breaking of each firmware version before performing their upgrades.

Looking for a little trip off the Apple Ranch but not quite ready to void your warranty? Visit and sample some of their wares. These are web-based apps (which means they run in Safari) but they are pretty slick and work checking out.


No comments: