Pros and Cons of Jailbreaking Your iPad

Are the extra apps and options worth it?

Normally, an iPad or other iOS devices such as iPhones or iPods can only download Apple-approved apps that are available in the App Store. Jailbreaking is a process that frees the iPad from this limitation, opening up the device to additional features and apps available outside of the App Store, including apps that Apple rejected for various reasons.

Jailbreaking doesn't change the core features of the device, and a jailbroken iPad can still purchase and download apps from Apple's App Store. However, to download apps that were rejected by Apple or that leverage the additional features jailbreaking provides, jailbroken devices rely on independent app stores. Cydia, which is usually installed during the jailbreaking process, is the most popular storefront for jailbroken iOS devices. Icy is an alternative to Cydia.

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Is it legal to jailbreak an iPad, iPhone, or iPod?

It is legal to jailbreak an iPhone, but it is not legal to jailbreak an iPad. The Library of Congress held that it was legal for a person to jailbreak an iPhone to install legally-obtained software, but that the term "tablet" was too vague to allow an exemption for those gadgets.

The ruling makes jailbreaking an iPad a violation of copyright law, but if you're considering jailbreaking your device, it might be more of an ethical dilemma than a practical one. It is clear from the Library of Congress ruling that the body believes jailbreaking is okay. It just wants a better definition of a tablet. Apple suing an individual over it would not only be a PR nightmare, but it would also allow the courts to decide the issue. Courts have sided with the people on similar issues.

However, legality aside, jailbreaking does terminate the warranty of the device. A new or refurbished iPad comes with a one-year warranty with the option to extend it by a year with AppleCare+, so if your iPad is new, jailbreaking could prevent you from getting a free repair if your device malfunctions.

Good Reasons to Jailbreak

The obvious reason to jailbreak is to get access to those apps that Apple did not approve for the App Store. Apple imposes strict guidelines on what apps can or can't do. Programs that access certain features of the device or use them in unapproved ways won't last long (if at all) on the App Store.

For example, apps that use the 3D Touch features available on certain iPhone models to turn them into kitchen scales didn't stick around for long. Apple feared people would break their phones if they kept setting things on them. But places like Cydia will let you load these apps and more.

Also generally failing Apple's approval process include a lot of tools that customize your iPad experience. These choices include different system fonts for the device, customized sounds, custom app placement on any part of the home screen grid, or even customizing the home button to shut down all of your running apps at once.

Finally, because jailbreaking frees up access to parts of the device that Apple would normally restrict, it gives people much greater control. It grants greater access to the file system and even unlocks communication from another device, which means you can connect your iPad to your PC and have greater control over what you can see and do.

Good Reasons Not to Jailbreak

It's not all benefits, of course. Along with voiding your warranty, jailbreaking introduces costs, and even risks, to your device. Here are some of the downsides.

Modifying any device can be risky, but unauthorized processes like jailbreaking can pose a greater threat. It is possible to "brick" your device during the process if you don't follow the instructions correctly, rendering it useless. If tinkering with your device makes you nervous, you should not be jailbreaking it.

While the idea of malware overrunning the Cydia and Icy app stores is sometimes blown out of proportion, the device itself is definitely more vulnerable to attack. Several worms that only affect jailbroken devices have been reported, and because no uniform approval process governs, it is easier for malware to exist in less-regulated app stores. Research the apps you download rather than just reading the app-store description and tapping the install button.

Updates also become more of a hassle. You can't update a jailbroken iPad without erasing the jailbreak. Every time you update iOS, you'll have to repeat the jailbreaking process, including downloading all of those custom apps again. The sheer process of jailbreaking after major updates may be more trouble than jailbreaking is worth.

Another side effect of a jailbroken iPad is that it's more likely to crash. Because apps available for jailbroken devices access features and APIs not available for Apple-approved apps, these features may not be tested as well and may not interact as smoothly.