Jailbreaking an iPhone Explained

jailbreak iphone

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The word "jailbreaking" is mentioned a lot in relation to the iPhone. Some people may even have told you that it's something you should do to your iPhone. Before you do anything, though, you need to make sure you understand what jailbreaking your iPhone means, along with its risks and benefits.

Jailbreaking Explained

Jailbreaking changes the operating system running on an iPhone or iPod touch to give you more control.

With it, you can remove Apple's restrictions on customizing the phone and on what apps you can use. It allows you to install apps and other content from sources other than the official App Store (the most popular of these is Cydia).

Jailbreaking has often discussed along with unlocking. While they are somewhat similar in that they give the user more control over their phone, they're not the same. Unlocking is a legal a right that all consumers have to move their phones from one phone company to another. Jailbreaking, on the other hand, is a gray area.

What You Can Do With Jailbroken Devices

Some of the things you can do with jailbroken devices include:

  • Download music, videos, ebooks, and other content for free (in some cases, this is also theft).
  • Access the iOS filesystem, something that's normally hidden from users.

The Arguments Against Jailbreaking an iPhone

The arguments against jailbreaking an iPhone include:

  1. Unreliable Operation. Apple tightly controls how its devices work, limiting your ability to customize them. Apple prevents these changes to ensure that the devices operate smoothly, with fewer errors, more security, and with a high-quality experience. Jailbreaking gives you control, but can also introduce problems and instability.
  1. Security Concerns. Because Apple requires that users only install apps from the App Store, all apps offer a minimum of quality and security. This reduces security flaws and prevents spam and malicious apps from infecting your device. Jailbroken devices can be attacked through apps that are not approved by Apple.
  2. Vulnerability to Attack. The iPhone is the most secure smartphone platform and sees the fewest hacks, viruses, and other attacks. The only time that an iPhone is particularly vulnerable to attack is when it's been jailbroken.
  3. Upgrade problems. Jailbroken devices can be hard to upgrade to the latest version of the iOS. This is because new versions of the iOS often close the code loopholes used by jailbreaks. You may not be able to upgrade your OS and keep the jailbreak. 
  4. No more official support. Jailbreaking voids an iPhone's warranty, so if you have problems with your phone, you can't get support from Apple.
  5. Decreasing Benefits. One of the big benefits of jailbreaking used to be that there was a robust set of apps to install. That's no longer true. Some of the major alternative app stores are dying off and new apps aren't being released.
  6. Technical Complexity. Jailbreaking isn't always simple. Doing it right can require more technical skill than the average person has. If you try to jailbreak without knowing what you're doing, you can seriously — even permanently — damage your iPhone.

    The Arguments For Jailbreaking an iPhone

    On the other hand, the arguments in favor of jailbreaking the iPhone include:

    1. Freedom of choice. Advocates of jailbreaking say that Apple is denying you the freedom to use devices that you own in the way that you want. They argue that Apple's controls are too restrictive and that they prevent people who want to modify their devices to learn from doing so legitimately.
    2. Removing restrictions. Jailbreakers also say, sometimes correctly, that Apple's business interests can cause it to block apps from the App Store that would otherwise work well. They say that you should have access to those apps.
    1. Getting content for free. A less noble, but still true, argument in favor of jailbreaking is that it makes it easier to get paid apps and media (music, movies, etc.) for free. This is piracy and stealing from the people who produce that content, so it's not a good argument in favor of jailbreaking. Still, it is one benefit for the unscrupulous.

    Apple Devices That Can Be Jailbroken

    Jailbreaks can be performed based on the device or the version of the iOS it runs, but not all devices or iOS versions have tools available that work for them. Jailbreaks are available for the following:

     Available Jailbreaks 
    iPhoneiPhone X
    iPhone 8 series
    iPhone 7 series
    iPhone 6S series
    iPhone 6 series
    iPhone 5S & 5C
    iPhone 5
    iPhone 4S
    iPhone 4
    iPhone 3GS
    iPhone 3G
    Original iPhone
    iPod touch6th gen. iPod touch
    5th gen. iPod touch
    2nd gen. iPod touch
    original iPod touch

    iPad Pro
    iPad Air 2
    iPad Air
    iPad 4

    iPad 3
    iPad 2
    Original iPad
    iPad mini - all models
    Apple TVApple TV 4K
    4th gen. Apple TV
    2nd gen. Apple TV
    watchOS 4
    watchOS 3
    iOS version

    iOS 11
    iOS 10
    iOS 9
    iOS 8.1.1 - 8.4
    iOS 7 - 7.1.2

    iOS 6
    iOS 5
    iOS 4
    iOS 3

    tvOS version

    tvOS 11
    tvOS 10
    tvOS 9


    There are no known publicly available jailbreaks for the original, non-iOS iPods.