The views expressed herein are my own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of anyone else on the iPhone Life team. That said, I hope that readers will find this article informative and interesting, or at the very least thought-provoking.
Jailbreaking is undoubtedly one of the most controversial topics that comes to mind in regards to the iOS scene. Not long ago, the United States Library of Congress declared a DMCA exemption for anyone jailbreaking their iPhone, meaning that it's completely legal to do so - it's also very easy to do, with such tools as GreenPois0n. That being the case, why are so many people hesitant to do it?
Before moving on, let's click that Time Machine icon on our dock and rewind the clocks a few years, to a time when the iPhone and iPod Touch were brand new and the iPad was nothing more than a twinkle in Mr. Jobs' eye. At that time, the only third-party apps that could be run on iOS were web-apps, which were limited in so many ways that, frankly, they may as well not have existed in my mind. As a result, I had no particular interest in purchasing an iDevice; I already had my super-awesome Motorola RAZR and second-generation iPod Nano, so why should I switch, right?
Then, something interesting happened. I saw a video on YouTube of someone playing an astonishingly robust Nintendo NES emulator on their iPhone. The very moment I heard the opening music for Super Mario Brothers blast out of the phone's tinny speakers, I realized the potential of the iDevices, and the very next day I ordered a first-gen iPod Touch. Immediately after receiving the device, I proceeded to jailbreak it, and presto - I had third-party apps on my iOS device before any of my friends. They all marveled at how neat this was, but as soon as I told them they could do the same to their device, their eyes glossed over and they stared at me like a cow stares at an oncoming train.
As we all know, it wasn't long before Apple opened the now-legendary App Store to jaw-dropping success. By the time the App Store opened for business, I had purchased a first-gen iPhone. However, I had no interest in paying for an expensive data plan; instead, I purchased a used iPhone, jailbroke the device, and simply disabled the phone's ability to send or receive data. It wasn't long after this that people started to beg Apple for copy-and-paste support, which was not possible on iOS at the time. Or was it?
While everyone else was whining about this lack of functionality, I was happily using Clippy, a jailbreak-exclusive iOS hack that allowed for extremely powerful copy-and-paste support on a system-wide level. Just as before, when I'd show people this tweak their jaws would hit the floor in awe, but when I told them they could do it too they had a panic attack and changed the subject.
This trend continues to this very day. For example, countless eople complained for ages about the iPhone's lack of multitasking. While they whined, I used a tweak called MultiFl0w, which allowed me to run any app I wanted in the background without hurting the phone's performance in any appreciable way. People wanted to use tethering on their iPhones but AT&T didn't yet allow this feature; jailbreak apps such as MyWi accomplished this task with ease and style. And, of course, I was still able to play my delightful little NES emulator on my phone while everyone else stared in wonder.
I could go on for days about the numerous things a jailbroken iDevice is capable of - for example, I absolutely love the hacks VoiceActivator, SpringFlash, and My3G. These are just afew of the thousands of excellent tweaks and apps available to a jailbreaker, and the list grows every day.
I honestly do not understand the average user's hesitation to jailbreak, but I can happily explain why I do. It's simple, really; if there's a feature that iOS is lacking out of the box, there's almost certainly a jailbreak tweak that will add the feature painlessly and seamlessly. Just ask yourself this: wouldn't it have been nice to have a multitasking iPhone before anyone else did?
[Important note: Some scumbags like to abuse jailbroken iPhones by modifying the OS to allow pirated apps to run. For obvious reasons I won't go into this process at all here. However, I'd like to take this time to say that pirating apps is a deplorable act; please don't do it. There is absolutely no circumstance where it is acceptable to do so.