There are many arguments for, and against, a controlled computing environment. The son of an adamant IBMer, I was taught the ‘joys’ of MS DOS and how to partition hard disk drives, segregating storage files. Growing up in a well-connected and technologically savvy home, encouraged me to digitally explore at a young age. In fact, during the summer between 7th and 8th grade, I utilized my family beach vacation learning HTML 4. I always appreciated the ability of most operating systems to be easily user manipulated, but when I gave my life to Apple in 2008, I quickly grew frustrated with a controlled ecosystem, despite its many advantages; consequently, I turned to jailbraking to satiate my desires.
Before I begin explaining the myriad of reasons why I jailbreak, it is unacceptable to overlook the incredible benefits of the Apple Ecosystem. Apple’s ability to create an environment in which their products ‘just work’ with each other is unsurpassed. Many other companies are trying to catch up – see Microsoft’s E3 Smart Glass announcement. From iPhone to iPod and iPad, iTunes to iCal, and AirPlay to Time Machine, sliding into the Apple ecosystem is immersive and holistic. Throwing your iPad screen to your AppleTV or streaming YouTube audio to the home stereo are Apple ecosystems, upon which we regularly overlook. I do not even have music stored locally on my iPad because the iTunes Home Sharing option streams music from my laptop.
Apple was not the first company to create streaming or closed system technology, but was certainly the one to perfect it. Apple’s products are the ultimate in plug-and-play…and more and more, plugging-in is becoming a thing of the past. Thank you, Steve.
Jailbreaking Enhances the Ecosystem
I completely respect Apple for creating an absolutely seamless and successful walled garden; however, I would like a little bit of control, particularly on my iOS devices. It is not that jailbreaking really disrupts the ecosystem, it does however destroy Apple’s complete control of the end-to-end user experience. While Apple very effectively provides an excellent user experience by building software for hardware and vice-versa, I prefer more control over my operating systems. Can I at least decide whether my iOS icons have labels below them? With that, comes a much longer list of reasons why I jailbreak.
Jailbreaking is about customizing my user experience with an already stunning device. Personally, getting locked into an uncontrollable framework is unsatisfying and boring. A prison for your mind – a Matrix. Frustrated by merely changing my wallpaper as a means for customization, I begin looking for an alternative in 2008, when I received the first generation iPod Touch. The only option then, and now, is jailbreaking, setting your device free to truly achieve its full potential. After all, it’s completely legal.
Why I Jailbreak
There are specific tweaks I use on a daily basis, perpetuating my need/desire to have a broken device. It is the intent of this section to summarily present these tweaks/hacks/apps that convince me to maintain a non-stock iPhone.
#1 Springtomize – Above all other tweaks, this is the reason I jailbreak. To begin, I really hate icon labels - abhorred by them. If my Netflix icon actually says “Netflix” on it, why does there need to be another label below it also reading, “Netflix.” My skin crawls. Also: more icons on the dock, more rows of icons, app switcher management, status bar control, lockscreen dimming control; disable badges; resize icons; hide any icon; auto close folders; folders in the dock; transparent Notification Center background; and much more.
#2 Winterboard – …but not by choice. Presently, to everyone’s chagrin, Winterboard still rules the roost when it comes to theme-ing one’s phone. Winterboard offers complete overhauls of the system visuals from new boot logos, modified lockscreens, and new icons, to sounds, keyboards, and signal bars. The reason it is my number #2 is for the Typophone 4 lockscreen, which is the best lockscreen, period.
#3 IntelliScreen X ($9.99, dev site, iDownload Blog Video) …is the biggest overhaul on my iPhone. IntelliScreen X is the whole package – a complete tweak in the truest sense of the term. It specifically interlaces with the native Notification Center embedding new widgets and grants lockscreen-notification-center-access. It will display icons on your status bar: unread mail; missed call; text; and voicemail. It installs a Twitter, RSS Feed, Facebook Timeline, and Mail screen in Notification Center. …and most importantly, comes with #4 Messages+.
#4 Messages+ …is the final clincher and reason IntelliScreen X is worth the price tag. Messages+ is an Messages.app extension. Using Messages+ allows the user to respond to-, create-, and “mark as read-” text messages from the lockscreen. I hate repeatedly unlocking my iPhone just to respond to a text message. Well, now I don’t! In the screenshot below, the speech bubble with pen is a texting shortcut.
#5 Mail Enhancer Pro …grants the long needed ability to use multiple email signatures, among other nice additions (some coming to iOS 6). I use around 3 email accounts from my iPhone and all of them need different signatures. It even allows different signatures, for each account, for sending, replying, and forwarding mail. Other deep integration allows for sorting mail with labels and setting up specific alerts when receiving mail from specific people and other parameters. It is an important tweak when using multiple business accounts.
#6 Barrel ($2.99) …is just fun. If you are tired of your icons simply swiping left and right between pages, Barrel is your fix. Choose from a long list of different effects, which is best highlighted in this user video.
#7 Mobile Volume Sound … makes the Mac splat noises when the volume is changed.
#8 Call Bar … simply adds an answerable banner notification when receiving a call so you are not moved from the current app.
#9 Full Charge Alert … makes a noise when the battery reaches 100%.
#10 SBSettings … toggles, etc. Less important now that I have Spingtomize 2 and IntelliScreen X #11,12,13- the list goes on…
Why You Should(n’t) Jailbreak Your iDevice
Frequently my friends and peers ask, “Jim, why should I jailbreak my [insert iDevice here]“…as if I am supposed to convince them to jailbreak their device. If you are interested in jailbreaking, no one should sell you on the idea. Instead, think to yourself, “is there something I wish my iDevice did that it does not currently do.” Let this personal brainstorm lead your foray into the very deep rabbit hole of pirates, .deb packages, and Cydia sources – the world @saurik has designed for us – but please do your research first. Increasingly, the jailbreak is a safer option, but it is not an exact science. Bricking your iDevice is always a real possibility and taking it to the Apple store with 100 tiny lines of code on the screen is not going to help.
If you are going to jailbreak, finding out about jailbroken apps is not something main stream media cover. Popping open the App Store is not going to easily spell out the new tweaks, themes, mods, and hacks. Cydia is a long web of tangled nonsense if you do not learn how to navigate it. Familiarize yourself with Jay Freeman, Jeff Benjamin, the Chr0nic Dev Team, @pod2g, @musclenerd (just cracked iOS 6), and the like. Above all else, know that jail breaking is not about piracy, illegal activity, or a seedy underground of techie hacks. Jailbreaking is very much a friendly environment and stealing only hurts the image and reputation of the community.
Jailbreaking is typically not a one-and-done action. For most, jailbreaking is a hobby that requires a decent thinking cap and some technology know-how. Unlike programming, jailbreaking is not specifically an “if-then” interaction. It may require trouble shooting, researching, and lots of forum reading. I have compiled a list of common “JB” terms and, unless you are at least tertiarily familiar with them, I suggest doing more research before taking an immediate dive.
Vocabulary: jailbreak, unlock, Cydia, tethered, untethered, SSH, SHSH Blobs, Tiny Umbrella, Sources, .deb files, IP address, terminals, 5.1.1, 6.0, firmware, Springboard, DFU mode, respring
Once You Take the Red Pill
Make sure you know what you are doing before you get into the hobby. Understand the ramifications of your actions and have a good time! Jailbreaking is a rewarding experience once you get your iDevice exactly how you want it. Jump over the walled garden and experiment a little, but make sure you are informed. I fully support the decision to jailbreak, so long as you know the possible consequences.
After all, according to Walter Isaacson, Steve “fancied himself a rebel, and he liked to associate himself with the values of the ragtag band of hackers and pirates” (p. 162). Consequently, while Steve was openly against the Jailbreakers, it is hard to believe he did not at least admire them from afar. We will never know. Again, thank you, Steve, for creating a mobile operating system we love so much.
What do you think? Comment below or tweet @jim_gresham to strike up a conversation!
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of MacTrast.com. By publishing this article, the domain neither endorses nor condemns the acts of jailbreaking or unlocking any electronic devices.