Jailbreaking your iOS device: a newbie's guide

Img_4078

By now, you've probably heard about the latest jailbreak by the hackers at team evad3rs. Some of you have been patiently waiting for this moment since the announcement of the iPhone 5 last year, but there will undoubtedly be those who are considering jailbreaking their devices for the very first time. It's an enticing proposition: you'll be freed of Apple's tight control over the iOS platform, giving you the ability to customize your device with hundreds of themes and tweaks and install apps that Apple would never allow in the App Store. But for every hack there comes a risk, and jailbreaking newcomers will have to decide whether escape from beneath Apple's protective wing is worth the cost.

Understanding the risks and legality of jailbreaking

As many of you may know, January 26th marked the expiration of a certain DMCA clause that legally permitted you to unlock your carrier-branded smartphone. However, unlocking your phone isn't the same as jailbreaking, and as such each falls under different regulations. Jailbreaking, for its part, was exempted from the DMCA in 2010 by the US Copyright Office at the request of the Electronics Frontier Foundation, permitting the following:

"Computer programs that enable wireless telephone handsets to execute software applications, where circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of enabling interoperability of such applications, when they have been lawfully obtained, with computer programs on the telephone handset."

However, despite its protected legal status, jailbreaking is not condoned by Apple. In an official statement to Cult Of Mac shortly after the DMCA exemption, an Apple representative said:

"Apple's goal has always been to ensure that our customers have a great experience with their iPhone and we know that jailbreaking can severely degrade the experience. As we've said before, the vast majority of customers do not jailbreak their iPhones as this can violate the warranty and can cause the iPhone to become unstable and not work reliably."

Naturally, Apple has a vested interest in protecting the revenue stream that it derives from the App Store, so it's not surprising that the company looks down on those who circumvent their software. But that's the extent of it — if you modify Apple's software, your warranty is void. But on the flip side of that, restoring your device with Apple's official firmware via iTunes will put you back in the company's good graces.

Understanding the terms of Apple's warranty is one thing, but you're probably still wondering about that bit that says "jailbreaking can severely degrade the experience," but whether this is inherently true is up for debate. The fact is, jailbreaking your device gives you full control over iOS, and with that power comes the added risk of breaking some piece of the system integral to its operation. However, that's not to say that jailbreaking will necessarily degrade your experience, it just means that it's possible.

Update: Users are reporting that the evasi0n jailbreak is causing Apple's Weather app to force close. We've independently confirmed this error.

Finally, there's also the issue of official apps that refuse to launch on jailbroken devices. These consist mostly of banking and cable-operator TV apps, and they're specifically designed to detect the presence of a jailbreak and will often deliver you straight back to your homescreen if you try to launch them. While apps with this kind of functionality are few in number, you'll want to carefully consider whether jailbreaking is for you if you rely one of these apps on a daily basis. That said, there are ways to circumvent these checks, but such hacks are outside the scope of this article.

The benefits of jailbreaking: a world of customization

If the risks involved in jailbreaking your iOS device haven't deterred you, get ready to have an entire world of customization opened up to you. Almost anything you can imagine can be changed, including the icons of your apps, system fonts, and even the appearance of apps themselves.

Theverge1_1020

But the customizations available aren't just for aesthetics; you can use an app like NCsettings to add hardware toggles to the notification shade, or completely overhaul Apple's multi-tasking menu with something like Auxo. Then there's my personal favorite, GV SMS and Phone Extension(s), which integrate Google Voice with the corresponding system apps. Note: it would seem that the GV extensions are coming to iOS 6.

Of course, one mustn't forget the slew of apps available in Cydia that aren't system modifications at all, but rather apps that Apple wants nothing to do with despite their relatively benign nature. A good example of an app like this is iFile (not yet compatible with iOS 6), which is an attractive file manager for your iPhone or iPad. There are also several excellent console emulators available in Cydia, and while these are completely legal in their own right, Apple still excludes them from the App Store for its own reasons.

If you decide that the the expanded functionality described above is what you're looking for, continue on and we'll take a tour through the jailbreaking process.

Performing the jailbreak with 'evasi0n'

Step 1: Prep work

Before getting started, be sure to do at least one full backup of your device in iTunes just in case something goes awry. In iTunes, open the the tab that contains your iPhone or iPad settings, and do the following:

Backup

Next, some jailbreakers recommend that you backup your SHSH blobs. An SHSH blob is a cryptographic signature provided by Apple that essentially tells your device that it's clear to install a firmware. These are handy to have in the event that you want to install an older firmware on your device, but they're specific to individual iPhones, so you have to back them up on your own. To back up your iPhone's signature, you can either use savemyblobs.com, or back them up yourself using an app called Tiny Umbrella. Make sure your settings are set like mine below:

Shshblobsgif

Step 2: Performing the jailbreak

Now it's time to perform the actual jailbreak. Head over to to the evasi0n website and download the tool for your operating system. After downloading the app, run the executable and connect your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. Simply click "Jailbreak," and wait as evasi0n does its work. There will come a point when you need to launch the jailbreak app your device, but the evasi0n app will let you know when that time comes.

Jailbreakgif2

And with that, your iOS 6.1 device should be jailbroken. Look for the Cydia icon on your homescreen.

Img_4086

Tap on Cydia and give it a chance to load. It will take a moment, but once it's done you'll be prompted to install the final piece: the untherering exploit. After you've done that, you can either browse through the available packages, or tap the search button to find your favorite tweaks.

Jailbreak

Note: At this time, our experience with the new iOS 6.1 jailbreak has been hit and miss. We're getting frequent 500 errors with many packages and various other problems. While our devices seem to work perfectly fine outside Cydia, you might have to wait for the load on the developers' servers to even out.

Update: Users are reporting that the weather app is force closing after the jailbreak.