What Does It Mean to Jailbreak an iPhone?

iPhone jailbreaking: What it is and how it works

To jailbreak your iPhone is to free it from the limitations imposed on it by its manufacturer (Apple) and carrier (for example, AT&T, Verizon, and others). After a jailbreak, the device can do things it previously couldn't, such as install unofficial apps and modify settings and areas of the phone that were previously restricted.

Illustration of three iPhone screens, one with a bird breaking free, one with apps coming onto the screen, and another exploding
Lifewire / Daniel Fishel

Although the information in this article is specific to iPhones, it may apply to rooting Android phones, as well, regardless of who made those devices: Samsung, Google, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.

Why You Might Want to Jailbreak Your Phone

Jailbreaking works by installing a software application on your computer and then having it transfer certain instructions to the phone so that it can essentially break open the file system. A jailbreak comes with a collection of tools that let you modify what otherwise could not be modified.

Jailbreaking lets you do everything from customizing the look of your iPhone to installing third-party applications, which are titles that are not authorized and available in the App Store. A third-party app can add functionality to your phone that you'd otherwise never see through the App Store.

iPhone Apps
 Pixabay

By default, on a non-jailbroken iPhone, app developers are not allowed to modify certain parts of the operating system. However, when the OS is entirely open to developers working on jailbroken apps, you can find apps that can redesign stock apps like Messages, add widgets to the lock screen, and much more.

Depending on how far you're willing to go, you can do even more. Jailbreaking even unlocks your phone so you can use it with a carrier other than the one from which you purchased it.

Why You Might Not Want to Jailbreak Your Phone

Once you jailbreak your phone, you're entirely on your own since you may void the warranty you have with your carrier. This means that if something horrible happens to your phone, you can't rely on AT&T, Verizon, or Apple to fix it.

Many users report an unstable or disabled phone after they enable the jailbreak. This is another reason you might want to avoid jailbreaking your device. Your smartphone could end up as nothing more than an expensive paperweight.

Broken iPhone
 Pixabay

This is because there isn't as strong of a standard when it comes to app development like there is with the official App Store apps. You might install a dozen customizations that end up crashing your phone or slowing it to a crawl.

Since developers of jailbroken apps can modify core components of the phone, it's possible that a small change to an important or sensitive setting could completely ruin the software.

How to Fix a Jailbroken iPhone

Some users have reported that they were able to connect a malfunctioning iPhone to iTunes and restore it to its original settings, which resolved the problem. However, others have been left with a broken iPhone that doesn't respond at all or reboots continuously until the battery dies.

Not all users have had this experience, though, but remember that you probably can't count on AT&T, Verizon, or Apple to provide you with tech support once you take this unauthorized step.

Locked phone
Pixabay 

Is It Illegal to Jailbreak a Phone?

The legality of jailbreaking your iPhone, iPod, iPad, or other iOS devices, sometimes changes as new laws are placed. It's also not the same in every country.