What Does It Mean to Jailbreak an iPhone?

iPhone Jailbreaking: What It Is and How It Works

iPhone
iPhone 6S | Image Credit: TechRadar
Was this page helpful?

To jailbreak your iPhone is to free it from the limitations imposed on it by its manufacturer (Apple) and carrier (e.g. AT&T, Verizon, etc.).

After a jailbreak, the device can do things it previously couldn't, such as install unofficial apps and modify settings and areas of the phone that were previously restricted.

Jailbreaking works by installing a software application on your computer and then having it transfer certain instructions to the phone so that it can essentially "break open" the file system.

Accompanied with a jailbreak is a collection of tools that let you modify what otherwise could not be modified. 

Why Would I Want to Jailbreak My Phone?

Jailbreaking lets you do everything from customizing the look of your iPhone to installing third-party applications, which are titles that are not authorized and available in the App Store. A third-party app can add tons of functionality to your phone that you'd otherwise never see through the App Store.

By default, on a non-jailbroken iPhone, app developers are not allowed to modify certain parts of the operating system. However, when the OS is entirely open to developers working on jailbroken apps, you can find apps that can completely redesign stock apps like Messages, add widgets to the lock screen, and much more.

Depending on how far you're willing to go, you can do even more than that. Jailbreaking even lets you to unlock your phone so you can use it with a carrier other than the one from which you purchased it.

Why Wouldn't I Want to Jailbreak My Phone?

For starters, once you jailbreak your phone, you're entirely on your own since you may void the warranty you have with your carrier. This means that if something horrible happens to your phone, you can't rely on AT&T, Verizon, or Apple to fix them.

Many users report an unstable or even completely disabled phone after they enable the jailbreak.

This is another reason you might want to avoid jailbreaking your device. Your slick smartphone could end up as nothing more than a very expensive paperweight.

This is due in large to the fact that there isn't as strong of a standard when it comes to app development like there is with the official App Store apps, you might install a dozen customizations that end up crashing your phone or slowing it to a crawl.

What's more is that since developers of jailbroken apps can modify core components of the phone, it's possible that even a small change to an important or sensitive setting could completely ruin the software.

Can I Fix My iPhone If Something Goes Wrong?

Maybe. Some users have reported that they were able to connect a malfunctioning iPhone to iTunes and restore it to its original settings, which resolved the problem. However, others have been left with a broken iPhone that can't seem to respond at all, or will reboot continuously until the battery dies.

Not all users have had this experience, though, but remember that you probably can't count on AT&T, Verizon, or Apple to provide you with tech support once you've taken this unauthorized step. Read this for  information on your rights.

  

Is It Illegal to Jailbreak My Phone?

The legality of jailbreaking your iPhone, iPod, iPad, etc., sometimes changes as new laws are placed. It's also not the same in every country.

You can check the current legality of jailbreaking in your country in the iOS Jailbreaking Wikipedia page.