Remember jailbreaking? From the first iPhone, it has been an integral part of the community around the device and even something which has pushed its development forward. Initially, just a way to unlock the phone and release it from the “jail” of an exclusive carrier contract, jailbreaking quickly grew into more. Games made their first appearance on iOS via jailbreaking, and for several years the only way to install custom wallpapers or ringtones on an iPhone was with a jailbreak. Many of the early iterations of the phone were rapidly jailbroken by an avid homebrew community, with DIY instructions and software available all over the web.
Apple was slow to incorporate changes into iOS at first. As a result, hobbyists and professionals alike decided to take matters into their own hands. With a jailbroken phone, one could install just about any app imaginable, long before they ever received approval for listing on the App Store. The widespread availability of easy methods to unlocking your phone led many people to try it, whether to use unofficial apps or to make cosmetic changes. The passion and vision the community had for doing new things with their iPhones could arguably be one of the big factors in its explosive growth and success.
Today, jailbreaking is on the decline; you won’t find thousands of easy to follow videos on YouTube showing you the process on the latest phones. Those researching jailbreaks today tend to be security pros, hunting bug bounties and consulting fees as Apple continues to enforce stricter and stronger security on its devices. In the past, a jailbroken phone was often exposed to threats from mobile malware. Now they are an opportunity for Apple to find new ways to improve user safety.
Will we see the end of the practice altogether soon? It’s possible. Even those that have jailbroken iOS 10 find that it yields an unstable system, and there is almost no significant difference or benefit. Prominent individuals from the jailbreaking scene have announced their retirement, with some even questioning whether there is any reason to continue jailbreaking given the system’s maturity.
It took years of intensive development, but the iOS of today is a far cry from the system that powered the original iPhone. While jailbreaking had its place in the “Wild West” of the original iOS devices, it has served its purpose. We thank everyone involved for their part in making the iPhone and iOS a better product as a result of their work!