…freedom for iOS users, giving them a way to break free from Apple’s restrictive App Store ecosystem, install whatever software they want, and use their phones however they please. Technically, each jailbreak is a hack; an exploitation of some flaw in the devices’ operating systems, used to install unauthorised software. This software generally includes some kind of alternative App Store, called either Cydia or Rock.
Jailbreaking is openly discouraged by Apple, who updates various jailbreak exploits out of existence as fast as hackers can find them, but even after three years of pressure from Jobs and Co, the jailbreak scene is still as lively as ever.
…and worth trying because…
…the jailbreak app stores are packed full of previously forbidden goodness. This ranges from replacement text message apps and device skins to Wi-Fi tethering apps and access to hidden device settings. The best case to be made for jailbreaking is a showcase of the apps it lets you download.
…and is easy to install on any iOS device
There are a few different options for jailbreaking iOS devices, some more involved than others, but at this point, and for current software versions LimeRa1n is the best choice. It works the same way on both Windows and Mac, works for nearly all iDevices (though some 2G iPhone owners have problems) and gets the job done quickly.
• An iOS device running version 3.2.2 (iPad) or 4.1 (iPhone and iPod touch)
• A computer with which your iDevice has been paired via sync
• LimeRa1n software from here (an .EXE for Windows users, and a .APP file for Mac users, which must be extracted from a .ZIP)
• A recent iTunes backup of your device, since it will need to be restored after jailbreaking
• About 10 minutes, max
1. Connect your iDevice to your computer, and wait until it is recognised by the operating system or iTunes
2. Open the LimeRa1n app
3. Click “make it ra1n”
4. Your device will enter recovery mode. Once it’s done, you will be prompted to manually put the device in DFU mode by pressing and holding your home and power buttons.
5. After about 10 or 15 seconds you’ll need to release the power button, but continue holding the home button. You will be prompted by the installer to perform this step, so keep a close eye on it.
6. The device will enter DFU mode, at which point you can let go of the home button. The installer takes care of the rest.
When the phone reboots you will see a new startup screen, and find a limera1n app on your homescreen. Run it to install Cydia – then from there, whatever the hell you want.
Here are some of the best apps for iPhone and iPod:
The Other *Other* App Store: The jailbreak scene has matured in ways that many assumed it couldn’t, most of which are embodied by Rock, which is essentially the other jailbreak app storefront. (Cydia is the one that shows up on your phone as soon as you jailbreak.) Some people prefer the flashier Rock to the straightforward Cydia in all ways, but there’s one big reason to have Rock around: paid jailbreak apps. Yeeeah! These are, like, a thing. A few of the entries on this list are paid apps, actually, and they’re worth every penny. There are paid apps in Cydia as well, but most of the big boys have opted to sell through Rock and often offer free trials. UPDATE: Cydia has merged with Rock, so you’re best off sticking with Cydia, as the two will soon be glommed into one store.
Mind Control: The utility of such a thing might not be obvious, but trust me: using a mouse on your iPhone is fucking cool. Of course that’s not the only thing Veency does; it’s a full VNC server for your phone, meaning that you can use it from your computer, while it’s still in your pocket. This is also an easy way to use a keyboard on your phone, if you so choose. Free.
Most of Your Settings, All the Time: SBSettings Lets you invoke a settings screen with all your most-used toggles - think 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, brightness - without wading through any menus. Just perform a little gesture (the default setting is a pinch on the status bar) and a drawer slides down, with pretty much every buried setting you could ask for. If it's missing an option for a setting you want, there's probably a plugin for what you want.
A Lift, a Snip and a Font Change: You really can't talk about jailbreaking without bringing up theming app Winterboard, and even though iOS 4 includes user wallpapers, it's still worth a look-if just for the tremendous number of bizarre or occasionally wonderful skins available. Winterboard customisations can be more than skin-deep too, tweaking SMS tones and the like. A word of warning, though: After you install this one on iOS 4, you'll notice some odd behaviours, and misspaced icons. Don't worry! Just go into the Winterboard app, disable all the checkmarked options, and respring. Work forward from there.
Tethering for Cheapskates: With AT&T's exorbitant tethering charges, jailbreak tethering, which works exactly as well is massively appealing. Sadly, you're going to have to compromise a little. An app called Tether is a cheap option, but it's somewhat complicated - but by no means difficult - to use. Problem is it only allows you to tether with devices that can create ad-hoc networks themselves, which rules iPads out. The same is true of PDANet, a polished, streamlined and more expensive (though there's a generous trial) take on the same concept. In other words, no iPad tethering. For that, you've got to use MyWi, another highly polished app that actually broadcasts a Wi-Fi network from your iPhone. It's pricey at $US20, but remember: AT&T's tethering fees cost that much every month, and they don't even let you tether your Wi-Fi iPad.
Three Bucks for a New iPod: iRemix replaces your phone's native iPod app, adding favourites, song bookmarking, on-the-fly additions to your on-the-go playlist, customisation FFW and REW increments, inbuilt lyrics, as well as artist info and video lookup. It feels less like a new app than it does a subtle, clever mod-but serious music-listeners will find it's worth the few bucks' gate fee.
Open Your (Video Player's) Mind, Man: Formerly (and tellingly) called vlc4iPhone, OpenStreamer does two things the iPhone's built-in video player doesn't: play a wide variety of video formats, and play internet TV streams, like the ones you find on ShoutCast. Basically, if your iPhone can't seem to play your Legally Obtained Video Media Items for some reason, OpenStreamer probably will.
The Games that Got Away: There are too many to list here, and that's a very good thing: NES, SNES, Genesis and GBA emulators are all worth your time and work with virtually any ROMs you can track down online. We're big fans of zodttd's offerings: nes4iphone, snes4iphone, n64iphone and mame4iphone.
Backdoor Dealings: Try this: copy a file onto your iphone - any file, your choice. Just drag and drop it... YOU CAN'T! This is why you need OpenSSH, which lets you connect directly to your phone's file system over Wi-Fi.
OpenSSH creates an FTP server at the root directory of your iPhone; you can connect to it like any other web server, and it gives you full control over the contents of your phone. Need to dump 4000 NES ROMs onto your handset? Just queue them up in your FTP client and let rip. Free.
Files, Meet Cabinet: FileViewer is a simple and somewhat idiosyncratic app that gives you a full, local view of your iPhone's file system. It doesn't do much aside from navigate your folder tree and display images, PDFs, and local web content. Seems like a small thing, but we find it invaluable.
Sync Without Wires: Wi-Fi Sync does exactly what you'd hope it would. Working in tandem with a lightweight client app on your computer, this brilliant little app tricks your devices into thinking they're connected by cable, and lets them sync the hell out of one another, wirelessly. $US10.
FaceTime at All Times: A number of tools are available to trick iPhone apps into thinking they're running over Wi-Fi when if fact they're transmitting data over 3G, but the $US3 My3G is the first to support FaceTime.
Texting Magic: biteSMS's best feature is its answer-from-anywhere notification system, which can open up a message reply box within an SMS notification, so you don't have to interrupt what you're doing. The app does much more than that, though, and you'll likely find another feature or two that are just as appealing, like lock screen texting, signatures, contact pictures, message use tracking and tray notifications. It's also bundled with a texting relay service, which knocks the price of international texting down to reasonable rates. The trial is generous enough, and the full app costs $US7.
Old Dogs, New Tricks: With the omission of multitasking and wallpapers from the iPhone 3G release of iOS 4, the 3G remains as the device most helped by a jailbreak. Why? Almost exclusively for Backgrounder, the multitasking app. In a lot of ways its pure form of multitasking is more appealing to me than the method Apple went with, and there are about 17 flashy task switchers to try it out with. (See: Kirikae, Circuitous and Pro Switcher.)
Everything for Nothing: It comes up every time we post about jailbreak, so let's just air it out: Yes, apps like Installous make pirating apps VERY easy. If you go this route - and we suspect you've made your decision before even jailbreaking - please treat it as a try-before-you-buy service. If devs can't make money-making apps, they won't make apps.
...and for iPad:
Backgrounder: By far the most important jailbreak app for the iPad, Backgrounder addresses the iPad's biggest software shortcoming, at least until OS 4 comes out of beta: its lack of multitasking. Once Backgrounder is installed, all that's needed to force an app into the background is a press'n'hold of the home button. You can add other triggers too, via Activator. (My personal favourite is "Status Bar Hold".)
Activator: A gesture framework that's automatically installed with Backgrounder, though there's a downloadable front-end for the app that's worth nabbing. Anyway, this lets you assign a huge variety of triggers and gestures to system functions. For example, when I shake my iPad, it takes a screenshot. Ha!
Veency: A VNC server for your iPad. This lets you open and control your iPad from any computer on the same network (or conceivably from outside the network, if you've forwarded the right ports to your iPad). The zero-setup app comes with a mouse framework, so you'll see a cursor on the iPad as it's being remotely controlled. Super cool as a tech demo, and surprisingly useful - it's a nice way to add your iPad to your main computer setup.
You'll need a desktop VNC client like RealVNC or ChickenoftheVNC to use it.
FullForce: A clever little extension that installs to the iPad's settings screen. From there, you can designate iPhone apps - the ones that haven't been properly adapted for the iPad yet - to stretch out to the iPad's resolution. I'm not talking about pixel doubling, either: apps employ native UI elements and scale dynamically.
The success rate isn't spectacular, and it rarely works with games. That said, apps like Facebook and NYTimes (which has much more content than the iPad NYT app) scale perfectly and fill a need. FullForce works on most jailbreak apps too, including a few in this guide.
WinterBoard: Themes! Well, sort of. Most of the Winterboard-compatible themes available in Cydia aren't designed for the iPad, so they look terrible. But hey, you can fiddle around with the dock, with some fonts, with some colouration and so on. More iPad themes will come in due time.
MyWi: Tethering for the 3G iPad, weeeeee! It's a paid app, but you can trial test it for free. It creates a local Wi-Fi network which you can connect to with anything, from a laptop to a Wi-Fi-only iPad.
MultiIconMover: Moving icons one by one is a pain in the ass. MultiIconMover adds a clever little behavior to the OS, such that when icons are in wobbly (moving) mode, they can be flagged for movement with a single tap. Once the apps are selected, the user simply switches over the the screen he wants the apps to move to, taps the home button, and the deed is done.
Cydelete: If you've read this far, you've probably got a stack of new icons on your homescreen, courtesy of Cydia. One problem: You can't delete them like normal apps. (Instead of the simple X-delete convention, Cydia apps depend on management from within Cydia. Lame!) This brings back the little "X", so you can nuke the Cydia apps you don't want to keep, conveniently.
OpenSSH: Allows connections to the iPad over Wi-Fi and gives you full access to the device's file system from your computer. Once it's installed, it's just there - no app to run, no settings to mess with.
This is the easiest way to move files to the iPad for jailbreak apps, like VLC and game emulators, to access. Instructions here.
vlc4iPhone: This one's rough around the edges, to be sure. It works with FullForce, sort of, and it crashes fairly frequently. But just consider the potential here. VLC plays just about any video file, whether or not it's supported by iPhone OS. Movies could be dragged over to the iPad via SSH and played without the need for conversion. This is the vision that vlc4iPhone more or less fulfils, and which it will soon fulfil on the iPad.
Installous: I wasn't sure about including this one, but it's a popular component of the jailbreak experience, a driving force behind its popularity, and, what the hell, you'd find out about it anyway. (Name that logical fallacy!)
It's necessary to add special a repository to Cydia in order to get this one, but once you've done that, the rest is cake. If you must use it, please treat it as a try-before-you-buy tool. Devs gotta eat.
Wi-Fi Sync: $US10 for a jailbreak app? Before you laugh, hear this: Wi-Fi sync syncs your iPad with iTunes over Wi-Fi.
Rock: An alternative to Cydia, Rock offers a different interface, and more importantly, a useful framework for app trials. (More and more jailbreak apps are going paid, so this matters.) I prefer the interface to Cydia's, but find it less stable. UPDATE: Cydia has merged with Rock, and is in the process of combining stores. Cydia IDs won out in the end, so Rock users will have to switch to those.
Categories: This one's simple enough: Folders for your apps, like the ones in OS 4, except uglier and available right now.
iFile: A file manager for the iPad. This becomes more important when you're SSHing files back and forth for emulators and the like, as it gives you a browsable file tree.