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.
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.