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Disadvantages of Jailbreaking

If you perform random Internet research on iOS jailbreaking, you will doubtless find a number of fear-mongering screeds that warn you of the dangers of jailbreaking. The fear at play here, principally, is the notion that jailbreaking your iOS device may brick it (a bricked electronic device is a piece of hardware that is permanently disabled and about as useful in daily use as an old brick).

In sum, some so-called "disadvantages" have a basis in reality, and some do not. Let's have a closer look.

Jailbreaking Can Destroy Your Device

I have been involved in iOS jailbreaking for several years, and not only have I never bricked one of my iOS devices but I have also never known a single person who was unable to restore the device to a pristine, pre-jailbroken state in the absence of extreme hardware failure. Apple deserves tremendous kudos for making it (a) easy to back up and restore your device's operating system and data; and (b) almost impossible to brick an iOS device.

Jailbreaking Voids Your AppleCare

We already addressed this issue. As long as you take the proper safety precautions, you should be able to restore your iOS device before submitting a successful AppleCare warranty.

Jailbreaking Can Result in Device Instability

This disadvantage, while controversial, has a basis in fact. True, it is a great freedom not to be tethered to the App Store for all of our app purchases. Conversely, we can take some comfort in the fact that Apple does in fact screen the apps submitted to it before it approves them for sale.

You need to understand that it is always a caveat emptor (buyer beware) situation when you download or buy a jailbreak app. Some jailbreak apps are badly designed. Others are horrendously documented and supported.

To these points, a poorly written and/or poorly optimized jailbreak app can incur the following deleterious effects on your iOS device:

  • Increased rate of battery drain
  • Increased and unexpected data plan usage
  • Reduced system performance
  • Reduced system stability
  • Reduced system security

The final bullet point in the previous list bears some additional discussion. A common newcomer mistake for some jailbreakers is to install the OpenSSH remote access application, but forget to change the default passwords. Bingo! An intruder can thereafter gain administrator access to your device with extreme ease.

Along the same security-related lines, there also exists the possibility that a jailbreak app developer has nefarious motives and has injected malware into his or her app. Thus, you may discover later, and to great negative effect, that while you happily played with the developer's cool new jailbreak app, that same app installed malware on your device without your knowledge or consent.

Figure 2 The worst-case scenario: wiping and reloading your iOS device

Jailbreaking Must Be Repeated…Often

Whenever Apple releases a new version of its iOS firmware, third-party development teams go to work in a sort of unofficial contest in order to see who first publish a jailbreak.

To end users, this means two things:

  • We typically run an iOS version slightly behind the current one in order to keep our device's jailbroken state
  • Upgrading to a new iOS version means re-jailbreaking our device

The good news is that upgrading the iOS and re-jailbreaking iOS devices is quite easy to do. The bad news, as we just stated, is that we often must accept that we will need to run an older iOS version for longer than we would otherwise prefer. For instance, as of this writing, a jailbreak for iOS 5.1 for the iPhone 4S is not available (iOS 5.0.1 is the most current jailbroken firmware version).

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