Jailbreaking and Unlocking an iPhone and Why You Should Care

by tombok

Information you need to know about Jailbreaking and unlocking an iPhone. Is it legal, what are the risks and benefits and how can it be done for free.

I want to talk about Jailbreaking and unlocking an iPhone, two actions you can take that can free your phone and give you some added benefits. In this article I’ll explain what each is, how you can go about this and look at a few reasons why you might want to free your iPhone.

What is Jailbreaking an iPhone?

Apple designed the iPhone, as they do with most of their products, to be used exclusively with software and apps which they own. They “jailed” the iPhone so that you will buy any extras from Apple and therefore make more money from you. You cannot just download any cell phone app onto your iPhone from a third party, unless of course you set it free by what’s known as Jailbreaking an iPhone. Once your phone has been jail broken you will be free to use software apps from other sources apart from Apple and increase functionality. What about unlocking, is it the same thing?

What about Unlocking an iPhone?

People often confuse the two but they are quite different. Unlocking an iPhone refers to adapting the phone to work on any GSM carrier. Most cell phones you buy today on a contract will be locked to the provider, again as a way of keeping you tied to them. By unlocking your iPhone you will be able to connect via any provider you choose and more importantly you can connect through free Wi-Fi services when available. To unlock your iPhone it first needs to be jailbroken and they are usually done at the same time.

Why Would You Want to Jailbreak Your iPhone?

People ask this along with - what does Jailbreaking an iPhone do? In a word – freedom! It makes it possible to use third part software. You will not Jailbreaking iPhonehave to buy any apps from Apple and can take advantage of the many independent and free apps out there. Some of the free apps are pretty cool and as usual you can find some wacky stuff too. Check out Installer.app and Cydia, two great sources for iPhone apps. You can check out some of the apps available before you decide to jailbreak your phone. Try an app to turn your phone into a voice recorder, use some photo shop type apps for cool picture editing and even install cell phone monitoring software from third parties if that’s your thing. The main benefit is that you won’t be tied to just Apple but of course you can still use their apps as well.

Is Jailbreaking an iPhone Legal and What are the Downsides?

Of course this is a common concern for most of us law abiding citizens. A court ruling in the U.S. 2010 established that it is all totally legal under what is referred to as the “Fair Use Doctrine” – great news, a victory for the little guys. Although it is legal to unlock and jailbreak your iPhone there are a couple of potential downsides.

If you jailbreak your phone the warranty may be void. Certainly if you return your jailbroken iPhone to Apple for repairs under warranty, they will say the warranty is not valid. There are ways around this of course. Before taking your phone to Apple all you need to do is restore your old settings. The jailbreak can be reversed – even a simple update will remove any trace. Of course if your phone is out of warranty you have nothing to worry about.

Some people worry that your phone may be more open to spam and hackers when it has been jailbroken. There is some truth in this but if you are careful and only download and install popular apps from reputable sources you will be fine. All cell phones can be hacked, not just the iPhone.

Remember that the Jailbreaking process is reversible so make sure you do a backup before you attempt to do anything.

How to Jailbreak your iPhone

Jailbreaking can be done for all versions of the iPhone – 2G, 3G, 4 and 5. Soon after a new versionunlocking iPhone is released – a hack is quickly found to jailbreak the new model. It’s a competitive business and the different companies race to be the first.

There are three approaches you can take depending on your confidence in your tech skills. You can do it yourself – for free, use a paid software download with support or you can pay a few dollars to have someone do it for you. The process is not that difficult and there are software apps to guide you but it can seem a little daunting at first to the inexperienced.      

  • Depending where you live you can usually find local stores offering a Jailbreaking service with prices from $30 and up. You just bring in your phone and they will run the software to unlock and jailbreak your phone. This is legal so you don’t need to be going to some dodgy back street dealer. Shop around and choose someone you think is reliable.


  • You can go for the assisted, paid software approach. Here you are still basically doing the Jailbreaking yourself but through a paid software app. There are a few companies offering this service from around $20. The benefit is that you have software to guide you as well as web and phone support should you run into difficulties. Apple Unlocker and iJailbreak Tool are two examples of paid software you can use. They offer good support and have easy to follow guides but to be honest if you can follow instructions the third option is the best.


  • Jailbreak your own iPhone for free. There are several free software downloads that you can use but the one I have tried and can recommend is available at Installer.app. Have a look around and find details to jailbreak using redsn0w or GreenPois0n. The paid software programs must hate this site because it is just as easy to follow as the paid services and there are good guides to help you along. Unless you really cannot follow simple instructions you will find this easy enough.

The free services have come a long way and have made the paid route almost obsolete. In all cases just be sure to back up your iPhone through the iTunes interface. Simply plug in your phone, select it in devices then choose backup to your PC. That way if anything goes wrong and you want to reverse the process you can restore with iTunes – devices – restore from backup. Do not skip this step!

If you want to take advantage of the extra apps and the freedom of choice then have a go at Jailbreaking your iPhone. I would advise you to try the free route first, just follow the instructions and have a go. Remember to follow the backup guidelines and you have nothing to loose – if it goes wrong just restore your old settings. Get some freedom and break out of the Apple jail!

Updated: 03/12/2012, tombok
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tombok on 03/12/2012

Thanks Lissie, great tip. U.K. phones tend to be locked to one carrier as well, but i agree that unlocking can be a great reason to jailbreak the phone.

Lissie on 03/12/2012

Its only US phones that tend to be locked to one carrier. So if you are travelling overseas and want to avoid high roaming fees you will want to get your phone unlocked too - so you can use a local SIM like the rest of us!

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