Jailbreaking Your Phone

Jailbreaking a phone opens it up for custom modifications

To jailbreak a phone is to modify it so that you have unrestricted access to the entire file system. This access allows for changes that aren't supported by the phone in its default state.

Jailbreaking can be thought of as metaphorically breaking the phone out of its jail or prison. When the phone is free from certain bounds set by the manufacturer or wireless carrier, the device owner gains more control over the device and how it performs.

Young woman sitting on grass using a cell phone
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Devices that are commonly jailbroken are iPhones, iPod touches, and iPads but many people are now jailbreaking devices like Roku sticks, Fire TVs, and Chromecasts. Jailbreaking an Android device is normally called rooting. This article addresses phones but the term is used for many tech items now.

Why People Jailbreak Phones

Although we don't necessarily recommend jailbreaking your phone due to safety concerns, people engage in this practice for a variety of reasons.

Probably the most common reason to jailbreak a phone is to install custom apps that couldn't otherwise be used on the phone. Apple blocks some apps from being released on the App Store but that isn't true for jailbroken phones; the app store used there accepts anything.

Another reason to jailbreak your phone is to get free apps. Hackers can install an official, paid app on their device through the Apple App Store and then modify it before releasing it to the jailbroken app store for all hacked devices to freely use. The ease at which stealing apps is available for jailbroken devices is quite remarkable and it's certainly one of the most popular reasons to jailbreak your phone — even if it's unethical or illegal or both.

One more reason jailbreaking is so widespread is because it lets you truly customize your phone. By default, the iPhone's app icons, taskbar, clock, lock screen, widgets, settings, etc. aren't configured in a way to let you change the colors, text, and theme, but jailbroken devices can install custom skins and other tools.

Also, jailbroken devices can be set up to let you remove apps that you can't normally delete. For example, on some versions of the iPhone, you can't remove the Mail, Notes, or Weather apps, but hacking tools let you lift that restriction and truly remove those unwanted programs.

Potential Problems with Jailbreaking

While jailbreaking makes your device more open and gives you greater control, it increases vulnerability to malicious apps and introduces potential stability problems. Apple has long been opposed to jailbreaking (or any "unauthorized modification of iOS") and notes that unauthorized modification of the system is a violation of their end-user license agreement.

Also, Apple has strict guidelines for how apps are developed and it's one reason most apps work flawlessly on non-hacked phones. Hacked devices don't have such a rigorousness standard and therefore result in jailbroken devices losing battery faster and experiencing random iPhone reboots.

In July of 2010, however, the Library of Congress Copyright Office ruled that jailbreaking your phone is legal, stating that jailbreaking is "innocuous at worst and beneficial at best."

Jailbreaking Apps and Tools

Find jailbreaking tools on websites like PanGu, and redsn0w. Kodi, too, is a very popular app for jailbreaking.

Be cautious of the apps you use to jailbreak your phone. Some of them could include malware and while they might hack your phone successfully, they could install keyloggers or other tools that you don't want on your phone.

Jailbreaking vs Rooting and Unlocking

All of these are terms used to describe freeing your phone from its limitations, but they don't necessarily mean the same thing.

Jailbreaking and rooting have similar purposes for gaining access to your entire file system but are used in the context of iOS or Android, respectively, while unlocking refers to removing restrictions that prohibit the use of a phone on a different wireless carrier's network.