Apple controls what you can put on your iDevices. Everything comes from the App Store and everything must pass Apple’s requirements to get in. They don’t allow things like application switchers, icon packs, themes, widgets, or things that modify the lock screen. If you want things like that or other utilities that let you use your phone as a wifi hotspot, enable tethering, or enable applications to truly run in the background you need to jailbreak your phone. Jailbreaking is unsupported by Apple but allows you to install the Cydia application – an App Store for applications that have not been blessed by Cupertino. I’ve always wanted to do it to see what it’s all about, but didn’t want to jailbreak my primary phone. Now that Sally has a new iPod I finally had a device to test it on: my original first generation iPod Touch.
To jailbreak an iDevice you have to be conscious of the version of the iOS that it is running. Every time Apple releases an update, they patch a hole used to jailbreak the OS and you have to wait until the hackers find another way in. There are several tools available that work with multiple devices and versions of the OS. My Touch was running iOS 3.2, which has a flaw in it that allows it to be jailbroken by going to jailbreakme.com without having to download an app and plug the phone into my Mac. The site presented a button that said “Slide to Jailbreak”. I slid it and after about five minutes, my iPod Touch was jailbroken. I started Cydia and installed a bunch of apps – a tool to provide multitasking, a utility to display info on the lock screen, an app to enable wallpaper on the home screen, and an app to display a status window from the title bar. The apps installed easily enough (although Cydia doesn’t have the best interface in my opinion). I had to perform several springboard and iPod reboots, but eventually it was all installed.
So how was it? Am I glad I did it? Meh. It’s not nearly what I was expecting. The Cydia App Store is hard to navigate, slow, and requires frequent reloads/reboots of the phone in order to install apps. I was running this on a first gen iPod Touch (just a tad faster than a 2007 iPhone), but that didn’t change the fact the quality of the apps that I downloaded wasn’t quite up to the standards of what you see in the App Store. I continuously felt like I was hacking my phone and that it was going to crash. All of the sudden I was concerned with things I never thought about before – my memory usage, remembering all kinds of button and gesture assignments.
So far I’m not that impressed with a jailbroken device. I haven’t seen the same quality that I expect on my iPhone and the lack of consistency and ability to do anything kind of makes me feel like I’m running an Android device. Except that Android is made for that and the iOS is not, so Cydia apps feel less coherent and more hacked than Android apps do. I’ll have to give this one some time, but I don’t think I’m going to be jailbreaking my main phone any time soon.