I’ve had my iPhone for around 21 months now. Even though I consider myself to be fairly technical the idea of jailbreaking it never really occurred to me. For anyone who’s not familiar with the concept it basically means hacking something (usually a phone or games console) that is locked down by the manufacture and installing unauthorised software. It sounds more complicated than it is. iPhone jailbreaking is so mature now that all you have to do is download a small program and press a button.
Up until now I didn’t really see the point. The Apple Reality Distortion Field™ was doing a fine job of persuading me that I already had everything I could ever need. This all changed after I bought my Macbook Pro. Now I had a laptop with a decent battery that I could take out to the park, pub or some other whimsical place and tap away doing work or writing a blog. The only thing holding me back was a lack of internet. I could of course go the legitimate route and add tethering (the term for sharing one’s phone internet with a computer) to my iPhone contract. This costs an extra £10 a month for 3GB or £30 a month for 10GB. This is on top of the £20 a month I already pay (o2 SIMplicity). As I already pay for unlimited internet and I only really want it for the odd bit of surfing I think I’m fairly justified in seeking another way of performing this task.
Jailbreaking was really simple. I used Redsn0w on my iPhone 3G running 3.1.3. The process took about 5 minutes in total. Once rebooted Cydia (a kind of unauthorised App Store) appears on your home screen. Through this you can start downloading. I decided on an application called MyWi as it enables the native tethering ability of the iPhone. Once enabled it’s just a case of connecting to the laptop via USB or Bluetooth and then mobile internet is yours! Of course you need to pay close attention to your usage. Torrenting every series of Lost will alert your phone company to your dubious deeds.
As I had already taken that first step into the unknown I decided to fiddle with some of the other things on offer. One useful app I found was 3G Unrestricter. This basically tricks iTunes or the App Store into thinking you are running off of WiFi and allows you to download files larger than 20MB. It sounds very simple but there have been many times where I’ve wanted to download a podcast whilst away from WiFi and couldn’t due to the limit.
Another part of jailbreaking that I’ve completely missed out on is multitasking. The iPhone can only run one thing at a time. Certain Apple apps like iPod, phone and Mail can all run in the background but third party apps cannot. There are several ways to enable this once the phone has been jailbroken. I decided on ProSwitcher. It not only allows you to run apps in the background but it gives you a swanky interface with which to swap between running apps. I haven’t used it long enough to test any drop in battery life but I’ll keep an eye on it over the next few days.
Features like multitasking will be officially supported in the next iPhone OS release 4.0 in June/July but for lifting the, sometimes over-controlling and frankly silly, restrictions Apple places on the iPhone jailbreaking really is the only way to go. These restrictions aren’t really a problem for the vast majority of people but for heavy users they can sometimes be a hinderance and a reason to switch over to another mobile OS like Google’s Android. The only problem is I am now reliant on others to crack each OS upgrade before I can install it. I am also planning on getting the iPhone 4/HD on release day so I’ll have to forego all the extras until the new OS is cracked. Oh well… I’m sure the shiny newness will entertain me for a bit.