As my phone is essential to my work, I’ve always hesitated to jailbreak my iOS device regularly. Certainly I’ve done it before, but once a new firmware is released, each person must decide if he or she wishes to update to all the new features, which often erases all the personal customization, or stick with an already customized jailbroken phone. Additionally, not every version of the Apple firmware is able to be jailbroken as Apple actively fights the community for “security” reasons. Regardless, the community has been able to keep up for the most part.
At the time of writing, iOS 8.3 is the current firmware and 8.4 is in beta. 8.3 cannot be jailbroken yet, so anyone currently interested in jailbreaking their device must be running version 8.1.2. If you are using a newer firmware, you must wait patiently because there is no way to downgrade your iOS device since Apple closed the signing window on the earlier versions.
Lucky for me, I’m running firmware version 8.1.2 on my iPhone and currently have a little time on my hands, so I decided to see just how far along the jailbreak community has come.
The jailbreak process is simple thanks to the hard-work of others. The only thing you really need to remember is to disable the “Find my iPhone” feature, since that will lock your phone to your iCloud ID. Then you merely need to run the jailbreak tool on a Windows PC with your iOS device connected via USB, and after a few reboots, done.
After you finish the jailbreaking process, the Cydia application will appear on your phone. Think of this as your AppStore for the jailbroken world. You can still use the normal App store for your Apps, but Cydia expands your choices greatly. See, the Apps in the App Store are reviewed by Apple and are isolated to running in individual sandboxes (or jails) that keeps one app from messing with another. The Apps on Cydia have no such restrictions, and while some argue a security issue, it also opens your device up to tons of customizations that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.
Once the jailbreak process was completed, I started browsing the Cydia market for basic tweaks and such. Just for starters, I downloaded the Zeppelin app, which lets you change or hide the AT&T logo at the top of your phone. Okay, so no big deal right? The thing is, no App approved by Apple would ever let you change such a thing. That is the power of jailbreak.
I continued to start small, and picked up a few other tweaks. One annoyance I always had was with the iOS keyboard. Regardless of case, the letters on the keyboard are always in the capital form. A small tweak called “ShowCase” fixes this, so you know if you are currently writing in upper or lower case letters. I know I know, this is where all the Android users will chime in that they have been able to do this for years, and they are right. Unfortunately the downside to using an Apple device is that you can only tweak or change what Apple allows, or you must jailbreak.
It is really easy to start out tweaking your iOS device on Cydia. There “Featured” menu has a number of popular tweaks, and I easily spent a few hours going through them and deciding if they were useful to me. Apps like Icon Renamer and NoSlowAnimations help with organization and speeding up your phone. I personally disable all the animations because they can be nauseating, but if you want, you can even download Apps like Barrel that add crazy and 3D animations for screen and app changing.
If you are a fellow Linux geek, you can download fun tools like OpenSSH (make sure you change the default shell password if you turn on SSH!) or download various tools like iFile to navigate the file system. If you want to be really retentive, you can even download an IP firewall to restrict incoming and outgoing communications. After all, the iPhone is nothing but a computer in your hand.
Once you exhaust all of the basic tweaks on the Cydia Featured section, it is time to add additional repositories to Cydia to download even more tweaks. This is where security starts to really get questionable. For example, I wanted a simple way to close all of my open apps instead of swiping up repeatedly on the SpringBoard page. After a little searching on Google, someone named Dany Lisiansky has created an App called Sicarius, but this app isn’t available on Cydia. To download this app, I first must add http://danyl.net/repo/ to the list of sources in Cydia, and then Sicarius is now available for download. While this particular app is harmless, hopefully you can see how some unscrupulous persons could trick naïve users into loaded malicious code on their phones.
Safety aside, here are some of the tweaks I’ve deployed:
- BatteryUsageEnhancer – This small tweak adds a visual graph that keeps track of your battery usage over the week. You can view this graph on the normal battery usage page in the Settings of your iPhone. You must add http://elijahandandrew.com/repo to download this sweet tweak.
- CyDelete8 – A simple tweak that makes it easier to delete Cydia Apps. Without this App, you must uninstall Cydia Apps through Cydia.
- f.lux – Do you use your phone a lot in the dark? F.lux really helps with the auto-lighting so you aren’t blinded by a bright white screen in the middle of the night. Some say this helps people sleep better, but I don’t know…
- HD Apple/Winterboard – A free tweak that replaces all of the default icons on the iOS device with HD versions. This layers on top of Winterboard, which is the fully customizable theme manager used on Cydia. There are tons of themes available for a small price.
- iCaughtU – Hopefully you remembered to re-enable Find My iPhone after you jailbroke your device. If you haven’t, go do that now. iCaughtU is another security tool that will take and email you a picture of anyone who fails to login to your iPhone. I currently have mine set to send me a photo if someone fails to login to my phone twice.
- iWidgets – iOS8 allows widgets to be added to notification center, but this is cumbersome and I don’t like it. iWidgets is an okay addon. It lets you put a clock or a calendar right on your home screen next to your app icons. The thing is, it crowds the phone, so all I did was put the weather in the bottom right hand corner.
- NoMotion – Removes that annoying Parallax effect where the icons on your home screen appear to be floating.
- NoTracking+ – A quick and easy app that helps keep apps from tracking you. How well does it work? No clue but it sounds nice…
- StatusVol 2 – A fantastic replacement for the volume HUD in iOS 8. Ever watching a video, and need to adjust the volume, and now the volume HUD is covering said video? If this annoys you, downloading this tweak will move that HUD up and out of the way. As mentioned above, you must add a custom repo to your Cydia sources of http://apt.steverolfe.com if this interests you.
- TypingPrivacy – This neat little tweak removes those annoying little bubbles that show whoever you are texting that you are writing a response.
- Weatherboard – This is a neat plugin that changes your wallpaper to display dynamically the current weather. Is it sunny outside, then your wallpaper will be animated clouds and sunshine. Keep in mind, dynamic wallpapers and gps usage does eat up a little battery life, but it is soooo perty.
- WiFried – Perhaps one of the most important updates, so I saved it for last. There exists a huge bug before iOS 8.3 where AirDrop would basically kill Wifi performance for your phone. Luckily the Jailbreaking community fixed this issue way before Apple even recognized it as one. Downloading this App fixed all my connection issues, which can be validated with a simple extended ping before and after the patch.
There is a whole wild frontier out there for iOS users brave to give it a whirl. Please remember to back up your phone if you choose to jailbreak, and of course, no one but you is responsible if you brick your device. However, don’t be too worried. Unless you drop the thing, you can always connect your phone back up to iTunes and do a full factory wipe.
Have fun fellow geeks! Let me know if you find any cool tweaks that I should check out.