Jailbreaking is the process that allows users to modify the operating systems of Apple iPhone®, iPod®, and iPad® devices. A jailbroken phone or other device gives the user access to the root file system, which is otherwise forbidden by the native operating system. Access to the root opens up myriad opportunities to install third-party cell phone applications and to customize and control the graphic interface of the device. Jailbreaking is not without risks, however. It voids the manufacturer's warranty, makes the device susceptible to malicious applications, and brings with it the risk of ruining the device's file system.
The first iPhone® was released in 2007 and was hailed as a marvel of smart computing and cell phone technology. Independent-minded developers and geeks, however, chafed at the inherent limitations of the device. For example, Apple strictly manages applications, or apps, for the device and enforces various usage restrictions. The developers sought to take advantage of vulnerabilities in the operating system to allow them complete control over the device. The first jailbroken phone was created in July 2007, one month after the release of the first iPhone.
Jailbreaking a phone offers many benefits. The process grants the user complete access to the root file directory of the device, allowing him or her to manage files and make customizations within programs. The user also can modify the graphic interface, or the visual and functional applications for the device. These phones might also avoid expensive data roaming charges when visiting foreign countries, since the user can unlocks the phone, insert a pay-as-you-go Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card, and enjoy largely reduced cell phone rates.
The jailbroken phone or device can be loaded with third-party apps, even if they have not been approved by Apple, which has stringent and sometimes controversial standards of approval no matter how useful or popular an app might be. Owners of phones that have been jailbroken often feel that the devices are truly their own, rather than being maintained under the strict control of Apple. Jailbreaking does not modify the native hardware in the cell phone or electronic device, so it can be easily restored to the original operating system.
There are risks in jailbreaking a phone, however. The identity and intent of the developer of the jailbreaking software might be completely unknown, so it could ruin the device or unwittingly transmit personal data without permission, with no accountability or guarantee from the developer. Third-party applications that are poorly designed could drain the battery, cause device instability, or accidentally or purposely inject malicious software or spyware into the device. Jailbreaking voids the manufacturer warranty, so if the process goes wrong or the phone or electronic device is defective, it becomes essentially useless.