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Would you jailbreak your iPhone?

iPhone with padlock symbol

Jailbreaking wasn’t illegal before and it’s not illegal now, but it’s still pretty risky business and could leave you in breach of your contract with Apple. So is jailbreaking really worth the bother?

Over in the States on Monday, Congress declared that it’s not illegal to jailbreak your iPhone.

This was part of the revision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) – similar to the UK laws governing our Digital Rights Management (DRM).

What is iPhone jailbreaking and why do it?

On an iPhone you can buy music, videos, podcasts and apps legitimately through iTunes and the App Store. But that’s it. All the apps have been approved by Apple, and unapproved third-party apps are off limits.

That’s unless you jailbreak your iPhone. A number of hackers around the world have written programs that open iPhones up to a world of new features.

Many of these are perfectly legitimate. The Google Voice app is a great example, as it’s free and not available through iTunes. Shame it’s not available in the UK. Jailbreaking also allows you to record video on the iPhone 3G, which you can’t do with its out-of-the-box settings.

Jailbreaking and the law

But then there’s the other side of the coin… if you jailbreak it may mean that you’re breaching the terms of your contract with Apple. Then there’s the fact that many iPhones are adapted for ill-gain.

A jailbroken iPhone can be used to download licensed apps that would otherwise cost money, for free. And it can also be used to download music or video from illegal filesharing sites.

Understandably, the whole fiasco regularly peeves off Steve Jobs at Apple HQ. I’m pretty sure users often use jailbreaking to score points against the computer giant and even use it as an act of rebellion.

But it’s worth remembering that Apple says a ‘host of bad consequences will follow’ from jailbraking your iPhone, including security, safety and performance issues. That means any jailbroken iPhone will have its warranty invalidated and miss out on future software updates.

iPhone’s aren’t broke, so don’t try to fix them

The thing is, the iPhone is a terrific handset, but it has limitations. Some people see these limitations as an obstacle to overcome, and deem the risks worthwhile.

What’s happened in the States is merely an announcement making it clear that jailbreaking an iPhone, if for non-DRM-infringing gain, is fine… at least in the US. But whether jailbreaking’s actually worth doing is hard to judge.

I imagine that most iPhone owners wouldn’t want to jailbreak their phones, but some estimates suggest that around 10% of all iPhones are jailbroken already. We’ll see if this announcement causes that figure to rise.

I wouldn’t do it to my iPhone. But then, without wishing to offend, perhaps I’m not enough of an ubergeek.

Bill Jobs says:
28 July 2010

In a word . . ‘Yes’ . . . or course jail breaking is beneficial to the user, not all users ammitedly! However for me it has been a God Send.

I bought and use a Mac at home, but run microsoft (apples arch rival) windows 7 for those applications which are only available on that operating system. This is completely support by apple.

Yet I bought an iPhone and can not run the Google app (completely legitimate application) on my iPhone as apple feel Googles app is too closely rivalling their apps/features. . . . so . . . Jail Break my iPhone I can run what apps I feel are beneficial to me without being stuck with the apple ‘app store’ approved apps!

There are alot of 3rd party developers making fantastic applications for the iphone out there, however majority of iPhone users will never get to see them because apple will not approve them for the app store.

Andy Seal says:
28 July 2010

No – I value the updates from apple; especially the recent update that allows ibooks to read pdfs. It is better at loading pdfs than my previous favourite third party app – good reader, which itself has excellent features.

I don’t have an i-phone – yet – and one of the reasons is Apples "restraint of trade" conditions. If something is legal then I wonder if it not an unfair condition to use it as an excuse to invalidate a warranty?

No, I don’t think so, not because of any updates but because my sister did it and the reception on the iphone was terrible- she couldn’t down load a single app, so any updates would have been stretching it anyway.

carinco says:
29 July 2010

Ernie is quite right. I am sure if Microsoft tried to enforce this type of ‘restraint of trade’ they would be hauled in front of Congress and the EU. It’s about time Apple were told to open there i-whatevers and stop being so anti competitive. I also do not have an i-phone or any Apple product. My wife has an i-pod and it is a real pain having to change her music collection into i-pod speak (ok I know you can now do it in an MP3 type file) but I had already set her music lists up in i-tunes and don’t want the extra hassle of changing it back.

I agree that if it is legal to jailbreak the phone then it should not be tied down in the first place. Having said that I do not have a iPhone, iPad, iPod or any other Apple product, I even try and keep its software off my PC as it is invasive. Apple may make some good products but they are too expensive and tie you down to only using Apple services.

Steve Gates says:
9 August 2010

Stuart, I know exactly what you mean!
Bought a new HP laptop for the other half at the beginning of the year. Was about £100 cheaper than the apple MacBook, so felt I did quite well there.

Yes I know it might not look as pretty, and I wasn’t too happy with the operating system. It came with Microsoft vista, which I think we can all agree is pretty poor! That said just invested in Windows 7, which I managed to get for just under £120 (£20 cheaper than most places). So I am quite happy now as it performs far better than before!

I have had to buy some other software though, Microsoft office wasn’t cheap and I’ve also invested in a basic movie/video editing package. Also my HP printer won’t work with my HP laptop unless I download the updated windows 7 driver from the website!

Oh, that reminds me, I also bought norton anti-virus as I have been badly caught out with not having decent anti-virus software installed on my PC in the past!

Anyway, I’m still rather happy I saved nearly £100 on the initial purchase. I’m sure I would have had all the same problems if I had bought the Apple MacBook. I noticed they have just brought out their new operating system, bet that will be expensive and over priced!!