Jailbreak Your iPhone. Seriously. Now.
I "jailbroke" my iPhone a few weeks ago. And I'll never go back to jail.
You can read the rest of this article first if you want, but you should really just backup your iPhone to your computer right now, then visit http://www.jailbreakme.com on your iPhone, and jailbreak yourself immediately.
But to those who need to know a little more, read on:
What is "jailbreaking?" Is it as illegal and dangerous as it sounds?
"Jailbreaking" is the act of running a computer program on your iPhone that allows you to install software not purchased at Apple's iTunes App Store. That's it. Nothing nefarious and dangerous. It's no more illegal than putting Microsoft Word on your Macbook computer.
Jailbreakme.com was created in part by a guy named Jay Freeman, who goes by the handle Saurik, and titles his homepage "The Realm of the Avatar." In other words, he's a computer geek, and not some Bond villain. He created Cydia, which is the official app store for Jailbreakers. It's not a place full of viruses and eletric fighting monkeys. It's the Century 21 to Apple's Bloomingdales.
Will this f*ck up my $199-$299 dollar phone?
This was my biggest fear. I'd heard things. Like, "Jailbreaking can turn your iPhone into an iPaperweight." And Apple warns you-- "Jailbreaking voids your warranty." But like that lady in the Pledge commercials found out (No waxy buildup!), I too discovered my fears were unfounded.
Let's say, for the sake of argument, the jailbreak does give you problems. All you have to do is plug your phone into your computer, hit the restore button, and your phone returns to its original state, with all the data from the last time you backed up to your computer. So there's no risk. If you try it, and it doesn't work for you, no biggie. You can restore your phone to its "still in jail" state and Apple will have no way of knowing whether you violated your warranty or not.
Why do I have to do this?
Because your phone is boring. Yeah, it was cool to have an iPhone when it first came out, but now it seems like everybody has one. And the only way you can tell them apart? "Oh... that's a nice case" or "Is that a new ringtone?"
This is what my Lock screen looks like:
I have my appointments, my email, weather and text messages all right there on the Lock Screen. And if I double-tap the clock, I get the top news headlines and sports scores too. It's a lot easier than unlocking the phone, then pressing the icon for each individual app and waiting for each one to load as I search for information. I did this with an app called Intelliscreen. Only available for a jailbroken iPhone.
Now look at what you can do to the rest of your phone:
"Look how pretty that text is! Is that Notes App... white instead of yellow? Where's the 3G symbol... why is it... is that the Ohio State logo? And what cell service do you have... Adam... wait, that's your name! And...wait a second... THERE'S FIVE ICONS IN THE DOCK! FIVE!?!?!"
Oh, and you can't tell from a still photo, but that's an animated wallpaper.
When a song changes while I'm playing a game or surfing the web, I no longer have to wonder which song is on now. All I have to do is glance at the top of the screen:
And forget about those cheesy "flashlight" apps available at the Apple store. I just double-click the home button and the LED flash of the iPhone camera illuminates.
And honestly, this is the more boring stuff you can do. You can download theme sets that change the look of your app icons... making them 3d, turning them into baseball caps, or making each one a different Playboy Playmate.
You can even change the look of the dial screen and the text message application. Now I represent the Yankees every time I text:
My point is, there are endless options. None of these things are complicated to do. You install an app called Winterboard, which is very easy to use, and you can download different looks from Cydia or RockApp, another non-Apple app store.
So, you can either get really jazzed about the lame wallpapers Apple's store sells, or you can jailbreak your phone and make it even more interesting and fun. It's not a tough choice.
Other things you may want: Unlimited folder capacity and customizable folders, changing the colors of pop-ups and selections, the ability to keep programs loading in the background while working in another app.
And of course, there's the three big not-so-kosher things jailbreaking allows you to do: download free ringtones of popular songs, use your phone as a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot for your computer, and use Facetime over 3G. Just make sure you have an unlimited data plan for the last two.
Ok, I'm sold. Any warnings?
Just a few. One, and most importantly, do not update your iPhone software to the latest version, 4.0.2. There are no new features in this update... it's only designed to block jailbreaks from happening.
Secondly, not all programs and themes are designed for the iPhone 4 and the 4.0 software. If you wait for the descriptions to load (it can take a second or two in the Cydia app) you should be able to find out whether it's designed for your phone or not.
Thirdly, there's a lot of great programs in Cydia and RockApp, but there's a lot with bugs too. One app I tried, which puts actual live weather updates on top of the stock Apple Weather icon, sent my phone into "Safe Mode," which gave me a panic attack. Fortunately, its an easy fix. You go into Cydia or RockApp and simply go to the "Manage" section to delete the offending program (another Cydia App, CyDelete, makes this even easier).
No, no buts. Do it now. Thank me later.