Over the last year, the issue of jailbreaking has been an especially popular one in the media. After the Supreme Court ruled on the matter, it put a lot of the fight to rest, but not Apple’s attempts to discourage it with their own products. But, what is jailbreaking, and is it as risky as the manufacturers would have you believe?
What it Is
Jailbreaking the the process of adapting the software on a device such as the iPhone to allow you to bypass security codes disallowing third party apps. Companies like Apple put these locks in place to force users to go with officially approved applications. According to them, it is to protect the user from downloading a harmful file, which is fair enough. But at the heart of it, they are also protecting their own profits.
According to an estimate by Gene Munster, an analyst for Piper Jaffray that tackled the question back in July, they have made around $300 million on their apps. But you also have to take into account the profits they have generate from selling the iPhone. iPad and iPods alone, thanks to the apps that make them a much more attractive purpose. Which would boost it up quite a bit.
Is It Legal?
Yep, it is 100% legal thanks to a 2010 ruling by the Supreme Court that found it to be an issue of user choice. Apple had long been claiming that it was a copyright issue, and that they were protecting both their interests and their users. But many analysts, and finally the US high courts, disagreed and accused them of attempting to monopolize content that should have been fair game. After all, there is no protection of copyright if you are trying to stop users from using other open source or licensed content that is legal, but third party.
Are There Risks?
As Apple pointed out, there is a risk to downloading third party applications. Mainly, if they have not been verified they can be harmful to your device, either as malware or just through poor coding. If it is the former, it can shut your device down and force you to have to wipe it clean and send it in for a reboot. Unless you have backed up the firmware prior to uploading the app, and so can go back to a past version. If it is the latter, you can disrupt the entire operating system and it can crash your device entirely.
This is a rare occurrence, however, and chances are you will be safe. Just make sure you know where the app is coming from and that it has been verified from a reliable source. For example, an Android app is not going to carry malware. Neither will most open source applications for established websites.
How Do I Jailbreak?
There are a couple of programs that you can choose to do it. Most are compatible with more than one kind of device, such as both Android and Apple software. Most will allow you to get updates to firmware that aren’t available for your phone yet, which can be a huge help (think of the Android 2.3.7 Gingerbread update for the Toshibo Folio 100, for example).