What You Need to Know About Jailbreaking iPhones, Rooting Android Phones and ROMs
Android and Apple devices like smartphones and tablets restrict administrative privileges and access to low-level functions on their devices for good reason. Without some restrictions users could easily get themselves into trouble and make their devices vulnerable to malware. On the other hand, by rooting an Android device or jailbreaking an Apple device you are free to do lots more with your device like running apps, playing music, using themes and other things that aren’t normally permitted. Here are some things you should know before you modify your device.
Playing Cat and Mouse With AppleNeedless to say, Apple is determined to make it impossible to jailbreak one of their devices however, a group of programmers have taken up the challenge to find a way around Apple’s obstacles with new jailbreaking techniques. There is a large subculture of jailbreakers who depend on the latest jailbreak methods and void their warranties in order to run “unofficial” apps on their iPhones, iPods and iPads.
Apple has made it harder than ever to create an untethered jailbreak for iOS 6 and the iPhone 5. Untethered means you don’t have to have your device connected to another device like a computer which runs some code every time you reboot the device you want to jailbreak. A tethered jailbreak means that an external device has to run code to “patch” the kernel every time you boot the device. Unless the kernel gets patched at boot time the built-in kernel loads and the device does not get jailbroken and won’t be able to run “modified” code. As of May 30, 2012 iOS 5.1.1 has an untethered jailbreak, but so far there isn’t one available for iOS 6 but it sounds like it is close.
Jailbreaking an iPhone is Legal But Not Necessarily 100% SafeJailbreaking is not condoned by manufacturers like Apple but as of July 2010, under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) is not illegal for phones. Unfortunately, at the moment, that doesn’t apply to tablets like iPads. Most recently the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) won a renewal of the smartphone exemption. Many people like EFF Senior Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann feel: "If you bought your gadget, you own it, and you should be able to install whatever software you please without facing potential legal threats." In any case, you should jailbreak at your own risk and know that you will be voiding the warranty although in many cases, devices can be restored to their factory settings after jailbreaking. Jailbreaking can also make your phone vulnerable to malware and other problems.
Cydia is the Source for Apple AppsIf you’re still using an older iPhone or iPad and you want to take a chance on jailbreaking here are some reasons to do it:
SBSettings is often mentioned as the number one reason to jailbreak an Apple device. SBSettings provides a quick and easy way to manage your settings.
Winterboard is the ultimate customization app for changing the look and feel of your device.
Dreamboard is a similar app that lets you change themes on a device.
Activator displays icons for iPhone function status like charging and other useful things.
MyWi is a tethering tool for your device that can bypass some carrier fees.
Lockinfo and IntelliscreenX provide easy access and views of events like emails and appointments.
iFile gives power users better access to their files.
Rooting Android DevicesThe Android counterpart to jailbreaking is called rooting which provides “root access” to the Linux-based, Android operating system. Android is an open system which means a lot of the source code is publically available. For this and other reasons, Android is a much “friendlier” environment for people who want to “tinker” with their phones and tablets. With root access, applications can gain low-level access to hardware and operating system functions. It provides powerful control but can also potentially create problems. Once rooted, an Android phone can “sideload” or install and run applications not available in the Google Play store.
The World of Android ROMsGaining root access to your Android phone is only half the fun. The real fun begins when you start overlaying custom versions of the operating systems with packages called ROMs. ROMs have traditionally been where operating systems and programs are stored in computers’ “read-only-memory.” The Android modification world is a scene unto itself where ROMs refer to “packages” of code that replace and augment a phone or tablet’s operating system. Android ROMs are “cooked” by “chefs” for specific phones and there are lots of them; just check out this directory on the excellent phone mod site, Theunlockr. ROMs all have creative names like “Resurrection Remix,” and “Liquid Smooth.” Some of the most popular Andoid ROMs come from CyanogenMod whose founder Steve Kondik was hired last year by Samsung. CyanogenMod ROMs include lots of features not supported by all versions of Android including: native theming, FLAC audio, OpenVPN, USB tethering, overclocking and more. The best place to look for ROMs is the xdadevelopers web site.
Rooting Kindles and Nooks
Amazon Kindle Fires and Barnes and Nobles Nook tablets are all built on Android. When these devices first appeared rooting them was fairly easy and there were plenty of good reasons to root them. However, later last year both companies began delivering automatic over-the-air updates which “unrooted” their devices. Despite rooting safeguards like locked bootloaders, as far as we know, both new Nook and Kindle tablets can both, currently, be rooted. In fact, we hear a programmer named sparkym3 discovered an “exploit” in the Kindle Fire HD that can also be used to root an ASUS Transformer Prime. Here’s a video to show you how it’s done. Once rooted you can access the Google Play store where you’ll find apps that are not available on the Amazon App Store. It goes without saying there are many risks associated with rooting your Kindle or Nook including the possibility of “bricking” your device or rendering it useless.