Photo credit: William Hook (Flickr)
During a recent Twitter conversation I promised I’d spend some time writing about the applications I have on my iPhone that require a jailbroken handset. The iPhone 4 is set to go to pre-order in 3 days time, with those of us adopting early, getting our grubby mitts on one on the 25th June. This post will therefore double up as a handyÂ check-listÂ as I go about jailbreaking and updating my iPhone 4 as soon as possible after recieving it as well as serve to share with others applications suited to the current iPhone / iTouch platforms. Before we dive in, lets have a reminder about what jailbreaking is, and dispell some of the myths and misconstrued hype that goes with it. Â Advanced iDevice readers can skip on down to the apps list.
What is a jailbreak?
Jailbreaking is a term used to describe the process of altering the configuration of an iPhone or iPod touch so that additional software or programs can be installed upon said device outside of the closed Apple platform normally used. On the surface the device looks and feels the same; however once jailbroken, a huge amount of customisation options become available, thus leaving users free to make their own decisions about how their device is configured.
In 99% of cases it is a simple process to undertake and very easy to understand. Unfortunately, there are always people looking to make a fast buck from decieving others, and therefore you should carry out proper research before undertaking the process to ensure you appreciate what is required of you. I’ve linked to some appropriate sources at the end of this post.
Apple’s view of jailbreaking
Apple don’t want you to jailbreak your handset. They have previously tried to claim doing so was illegal; a preposterious proposition given the handset belongs to it’s owner and not Apple. You’ve the right to do with your device as you so wish! Apple have since moved on to a different stand point – that jailbreaking your handset will damage your handset and cause instability. Sure, you lose the audit process that Apple places on all applications before they are published to the iTunes app store, but only for applications you choose to install from third party application repositiories. With common sense prevailing you won’t have any issues. Add dodgy repositories where typically ripped off applications can be found, and you might find yourself in a world of hurt similar to how you could if you visited any number of sites offering pirated computer software.
Some applications provide power user access to the iPhone’s underlying operating system. To this end, you should educate yourself about what you are installing and take the time to understand the configuration of each application and tasks required of you to protect your device. You wouldn’t leave the keys to your car in your car door when you walk away from it would you, so why would you install an application on your iPhone to give you access to the file system and then not change the default password?
Are there any downsides?
Other than you needing to have a little more care and diligence about what you choose to install upon your device there are only really two things you need to take into consideration when installing third party applications via the jailbroken platform.
- Customising your device through wallpapers, themes etc and adding functionality that’s “always on” will reduce your daily battery life. There’s no getting away from this. The more you add that’s running in the background, the less time your battery will last.
- If you choose to install an application that allows multi-tasking, you should ensure you don’t fall into the trap of attempting to have lots of programs left running. The iPhone/iTouch only has a finite amount of memory and the more apps you open, the more memory gets eaten up and therefore your device could slow down, or worse still refuse to open other apps until you’ve closed others down.
Can I un-jailbreak?
Of course, and very easily too. Connect your device to iTunes, perform a backup so all your settings and information is retained, then click the restore button and follow the on-screen instructions. It’s not a process from which there is no return. In fact, when Apple release updates to their operating system many jailbreaker will restore their iPhone/iTouch to a vanilla build before then re-jailbreaking so they can take advantage of new Apple features.
Applications I’m using
Some of these are free, some I’ve paid for. Those I’ve paid for didn’t cost a lot of money and I paid securely through either PayPal or Amazon payment systems. I’ve marked those I’ve paid for clarity, since I appreciate some might not want to lay out any monies at all.
Until the announcement of iOS4 (Apple’s next operating system for iPhones and iTouch devices) there wasn’t a way to natively multi-task. Even when Apple’s OS can provide the ability to do so, it’ll only be available on the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 since Apple have said they don’t feel earlier hardware is capable. Â Backgrounder allows a user to set a program to stay running once the application is exited. Â Doing so allows a fast re-opening of the app, and for it to remain operational, for example Spotify, SkyPE and many others.
Apple recently announced “Folders” for the iDevices. Categories has provided similar functionality on the platform for some time prior to this announcement. Â Of course, it’ll be unnecessary once iOS4 is out; however is invaluable forÂ de-clutteringÂ a springboard and placing similar applications together for convenience and order.
Prior to the iPhone 3GS, there was no effective video recorder function for the iPhone. Â There have been apps on the iTunes app store, but none have captured enough frames per second to make a recording appear better than a poorly assembled animated gif. Â Cycorder provided users with simple video recording functionality.
The regular contact list screen looks plain and boring. Â Cyntact adds a column to the left hand side of the screen which displays your contact’s photograph. Â Simple, but very effective.
Elite Pro (Theme)
You love your iDevice, but it looks the same as everyone else’s doesn’t it? Â Wouldn’t you love to have your own custom wallpaper, icons, screens, sounds etc? Â Well, through the user of Winterboard, you can download and install any number of replacement themes or modify individual sections of your devices look and feel. Â Elite Pro is my personal preference for a system replacement theme.
Five Icon Dock
The standard Apple screen has 4 spaces at the bottom of every springboard screen for you to keep applications you want to launch quickly, typically email, SMS, phone and either safari or iPod. Â There in is the problem, I want five available. Â This application alters the space between the icons on the dock so you can easily fit five icons across it without it feeling squashed and cluttered.
We’ve all needed to use our device as a torch before now, but Apple place restrictions on how bright they will allow applications to set the screen. Â This application for jailbroken devices sets your brightness to the highest possible therefore providing a really useful and quality torch as opposed to the inferior app store counterparts.
Similar to the Five Icon Dock, this modifies the space between icons on your main screens so that you can fit five icons across rather than the default four. Â The only downside to this is that some longer titled applications text can cross over another long named application if their icons are placed side by side. Â Not a reason to avoid the application, but a simple requirement that you plan your screen layout carefully.
(Can be seen in the screen shot for Elite Pro Theme above)
Quickly access the file system of your iDevice with an convenient explorer view. Â Alternatively, create an Ad Hoc Wireless point so you can transfer files to and from the file system on another device. Â Useful if you wish to copy movies or other files on/off the device.
The standard YouTube application for iDevices is “ok”. Â That’s it, it’s just, “ok”. Â MxTube provides all the functionality of the YouTube application but allows you to keep the videos on your iDevice as well as choose higher quality versions rather than just viewing the low res versions served to the standard YouTube app.
There’s oneÂ functionalityÂ I miss from my days of owning a Nokia handset. Â The little icons that sit to the top of the screen to tell me about SMS messages, emails and missed calls. Â This simple application shows these clearly and can even be set to remind you you’ve had a message arrive if you don’t open it within a assigned period of time.
If you’ve lots of springboard screens in use it can often be cumbersome to flick between them all to get to the springboard you want to be on. Â The overboard application is simple, double tap the home key (or another sequence you can set) and you’l see a screen of mini springboards. Â Tap the one you want to be on and it’ll be displayed. Â Great for fast springboard page switching.
Want to access the Internet on your laptop but don’t have a wifi connection available or a data stick? Â Pair your laptop and your iPhone and have your iPhone access as a wireless access point. Â Internet traffic is routed via it and at the moment can’t be detected by your operator as tethered traffic.
When asked, this is always my number one jailbreak app. Â It provides fast toggling of iDevice services. Â For example, want to turn Wifi off, swipe your finger across the top of the screen and tap wifi to turn it off. Â No more navigating deeply into the Apple sub menus. Â It’s not limited to wifi, there are a number of toggles, eg 3G, Edge, Vibrate, Bluetooth etc. Â You can also explore iDevice processes killing them to free memory or stuck apps therefore reducing the need to reboot.
I used to lock my iPhone all the time, or at least have it so that after a period of inactivity it would lock itself; however since I now use the iPhone pretty much every few minutes I don’t want to have to put a code in every time I pick it up. Â Instead, I manually lock the device when it’s going in my pocket, but the rest of the time leave it unlocked. Â I don’t want the screen backlight on all the time it’s unlocked since it’ll eat my battery, so ScreenDimmer is installed. Â This turns off the backlight after a pre-set period of time. Â I can reactivate it by simply tapping the screen.
The default SMS and Email tones aren’t the best. Â They don’t offer many alternatives and therefore I’ve installed ToneFXs to provide a much wider range of options.
TRUWeather (and WeatherIcon)
I’m British and therefore typically weather obsessed. Â The only people who’d give we Brits a run for our money are the Floridians and their hurricane watch. Â TRUWeather modifies the default weather icon (via Winterboard) so that you can up to date information about current weather right on your springboard weather app icon.
Most of us will have tried to download something from iTunes or the App Store only to be told that the download will be more than 10Mb so we’re can’t do it until we’re on WiFi. Â 3GÂ UnrestrictorÂ tricks your iPhone into ney and I paid securely through either PayPal or Amazon payment systems. I’ve marked those I’ve paid for clarity, since I appreciate some might not want to lay out any monies at all.
If you’ve other suggestions then I’m keen to hear about them. Â Please share them in the comments section below. Â Also, feel free to ask me questions about any of the info in this post.
Reliable Jailbreak sources
I mentioned earlier in the post that you should be careful where you get your jailbreaking software from. Â There are several ways to jailbreak a device, the method vary between each product. Â There’s always some new way being touted as the be all and end all of how to free your device from Apple’s restrictive reins. Â My advice would be to visit the iPhone Dev blog. Â It’s run by the original jailbreaking team and they work on reliable methods to jailbreak devices each time Apple moves the goal posts in the process. Â They acknowledge others who aim to do the same as them, and will hold their hands up if others produce a reliable / effective unlock since some other’s processes are unreliable or worse still ineffective.
Once the iOS4 platform is released, and a jailbreak process becomes widely available, we will write and host our own processes for a step-by-step guide so be sure to check back soon.