What is jailbreaking on iPhone?

Digital freedom
10 mins
Jailbreaking iOS

The year is 2018. You’ve just purchased a new iPhone and cannot wait to jailbreak your device and customize it with all the apps and features you want. Jailbreaking, also known as rooting, is a method hackers introduced to get around the software restrictions created by phone manufacturers. While jailbreaking isn’t as popular now as it was in the past, you might still want to do it to improve your iOS device’s functions.

Read on to learn more about jailbreaking, the pros and cons of jailbreaking, and how to restore a jailbroken device.

What is jailbreaking on iPhone?

When you jailbreak an iPhone or an iPad, you’re removing software restrictions Apple and its manufacturer have imposed. Jailbreaking an iPhone gives you ‘root’ or ‘superuser’ access to the phone’s operating system, allowing you to download unauthorized apps not found in the official app store and personalize the look of your iOS device. Users who gain access to their device’s operating systems might also be able to access the file system and open restricted file types.

Jailbreaking is primarily about freedom of choice. Many people who jailbreak their devices do so to customize their looks and functionality based on their needs and wants.

It has to be said that jailbreaking an iPhone or iOS device voids its warranty, and Apple views this practice as a violation of the end-user license agreement. 

What’s the difference between rooting and jailbreaking?

If you’re interested in jailbreaking, chances are, you’ve heard of the term ‘rooting’ in your research. Rooting and jailbreaking are the same things, though the term ‘jailbreaking’ is associated with iOS devices. because Apple’s strict protocols have made users feel restricted.

Due to Android’s already open nature and the manufacturer’s permissive approach to ‘rooting,’ it’s easier for Android users to give themselves more privileges, like access to apps from unofficial stores and the ability to install files. However, this also means restoring devices to their original form will be harder.

Is it still possible to jailbreak an iPhone?

In the past few years, Apple has doubled down on its mission of preventing people from jailbreaking devices. In 2021, the company released iOS15 with privacy-focused features that restrict apps from accessing personal user data and other assets.

According to Apple, unauthorized modification of its devices increases the cybersecurity risks of users and causes instability in native apps. 

As such, the company’s latest iterations of iOS have made it harder for people to jailbreak devices. Methods that used to work in the past, like downloading specific apps, aren’t effective anymore. 

However, it’s still possible to jailbreak an iOS device. Programmers, like epeth0mus, publish jailbreaking scripts of the latest iOS on GitHub. Some scripts, like Checkra1n, supposedly allow users to download app updates and new iOS releases so users can still enjoy the security benefits Apple grants.

How to tell if an iPhone has been jailbroken or modified

Determining if an iPhone or iOS device has been broken into is important if you’ve purchased a used device or if you’ve noticed issues with your device and are unsure why.

The signs below are strong indicators that an iOS device has been jailbroken into:

You’ve found unusual apps

When purchasing a second-hand device, do a quick check of the app directory to see if you can find apps or app stores for jailbreaking or unauthorized apps. Some popular iOS apps include Cydia, Unc0ver, and Chimera (above).

You found unusual options in Settings

If you’ve found unusual options in Settings for apps or software that you’re unfamiliar with, this pretty much confirms that your device has been modified.

Performance or battery issues 

Poor battery performance could indicate that your device has been modified. Apps and software created for jailbroken devices might sometimes require more memory and operational capacity than those on official app stores. This could lead to the battery on your devices draining faster.

The pros and cons of jailbreaking your iPhone

While we can see the appeal of jailbreaking your device, there are definitely some things to consider before you go ahead and do so. Read on to understand the benefits and disadvantages of unauthorized modifications to your device.

What are the pros of jailbreaking your iPhone?

You’ll have more control over your iPhone

As you probably already know, jailbreaking your iPhone gives you more freedom and flexibility. You can also install custom tweaks to enhance the user experience, like app shortcuts, or modify system behavior to fit your needs.

You can install a wider variety of apps

Unofficial app stores, like Cydia, have a whole host of apps that aren’t available on the official iOS App Store. Jailbreaking opens you up to a whole new world of apps that allow you to modify and enhance your iOS device’s capabilities and functions.

You can remove bloatware

Jailbreaking your iPhone might allow you to remove pre-installed apps or bloatware, that you don’t need or want. This frees up memory space on your devices and helps you declutter your phone.

You’ll have access to additional features 

Some jailbreak tweaks can improve the functionality of your iPhone, like adding features that aren’t available by default. For example, you could install a tweak to enable additional multitasking capabilities, enhance the Control Center, or improve battery life. However, you’ll need to research these tweaks and ensure they work best for you. 

What are the cons of jailbreaking your iPhone?

Rooting your device always makes it less secure

While some restrictions are indeed annoying, unnecessary, or built with the intent of milking users of their money, jailbreaks aren’t able to distinguish between necessary and malign limits.

For example, it is important that each installed app can only read its own data and cannot access the data of other apps. Otherwise, they could obtain encryption keys, Bitcoin backup seeds, passwords, or personal information. You would need to trust all your apps with all the data in your phone—an unnecessary and dangerous undertaking.

Additionally, rooting makes it easier for others to manipulate the software on your device, for example, by accessing its operating system when you plug it into somebody else’s USB port. Your personal information would be entirely exposed, leaving you without privacy or data control.

No more automatic updates

Jailbroken devices may face difficulties when updating to the latest iOS version. While some jailbreak apps allegedly allow you to update to new iOS versions, this isn’t always guaranteed. Furthermore, iOS updates can remove the jailbreak, so you’ll need to repeat the process after each update. The update could cause compatibility issues with your jailbreak software, causing your phone to malfunction or not work anymore, otherwise known as “bricking.” 

You’ll be voiding your phone’s warranty

As Apple has stated, jailbreaking your iPhone voids its warranty, which means the company might not provide support or repairs for any issues you encounter after jailbreaking.

Your phone may be more likely to crash, and you might lose access to services

Jailbreaking can expose your device to security risks, as it bypasses some of the built-in security measures implemented by Apple. Some apps, particularly banking and streaming services, can detect if your device is jailbroken and may not work properly or on a jailbroken iPhone, which means you lose access to services you’d normally have.

In addition, jailbroken devices might face compatibility issues with native Apple services like iCloud, iMessage, FaceTime, and even Apple Pay. According to their Support page, Apple revealed that jailbroken devices had experienced problems with synchronization.

You might not be able to make voice or video calls

Jailbroken devices might struggle with reliably making voice and video calls. Apple also suggests that jailbroken devices might not be able to pinpoint location accurately, preventing you from using apps like Apple and Google Maps.

Unauthorized modifications can sometimes result in software instability, leading to crashes, freezes, or other performance issues. Some jailbreak tweaks or unofficial apps may not be fully compatible with your device or the latest iOS version.

You might be susceptible to data breaches and cybersecurity risks

Jailbreaking can expose your device to security risks, as it bypasses some of the default security measures by Apple. This makes your device more vulnerable to malware, hacking, and unauthorized access to your personal data. 

While jailbreak software can be safe, it’s available in public spaces like GitHub, where hackers might be able to find vulnerabilities in its code and exploit it.

You risk bricking your phone

Unless you’re confident in your jailbreaking skills, you run the risk of bricking your phone. When this happens, you cannot use your device, and attempting to return your phone to its original state will not work.

How to fix a jailbroken iPhone?

Fortunately, you can restore a jailbroken device to its stock mode. Here are some ways you can un-jailbreak your phone:

Update your iOS: 

  1. Head to Settings and tap on General 
  2. Tap on Software Update 
  3. Your phone might restart, which could remove the jailbroken software in the process.

Use the Unc0ver app: 

If you’re using the Unc0ver app to jailbreak your phone, you can use it to restore your phone back to its original form. 

  1. Open the app and click on Settings 
  2. Turn on the Refresh Icon Cache and Restore RootFS options 
  3. Tap Done 
  4. Now, tap Restore RootFS 
  5. Your phone will then reboot, and unauthorized apps like the Cydia app store will be gone 
  6. Finally, delete the Unc0ver app 

Use your Mac desktop or laptop 

  1. Plug your iOS device to your Mac 
  2. Open Finder and click on your iOS’ device 
  3. Click on General and Restore iPhone 
  4. You can also restore your device from a backup
  5. If you’re restoring your device from a backup, you can follow the directions on the screen after selecting that option

Is jailbreaking an iPhone illegal?

No, it’s not inherently illegal to jailbreak your iPhone. However, some device manufacturers claim jailbreaking violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Furthermore, as jailbreaking gives users access to a wider variety of content and apps for download, users might accidentally download copyrighted content, which is illegal.

Here’s what to do instead of jailbreaking your phone

Now that you’re aware of the risks associated with jailbreaking your device, you might steer clear from doing it. However, if you want more autonomy over your items, here are some things you can do that could give you more access.

Choose your device carefully

Not all devices are created equal. Some laptops and phones will make it relatively easy for you to install software and make modifications, while others don’t.

Make a conscious decision before buying: Does the default software have the capabilities you expect, or can you install the operating system you want?

If you get a Laptop with Windows installed, do a quick search to see how well Linux runs on it. If you’re getting a phone, you might want to avoid Apple devices altogether and pick an Android alternative that allows modification and other changes.

Technically, you can customize your iOS devices

iOS 16 has made it possible for you to customize the look of your iPhone’s home screen. From widgets to app icons, Apple users now have more autonomy over the aesthetics of their iOS devices. Apple users can also use apps like Color Widgets and Flaticon to download free design packs. Alternatively, they can purchase custom-made designs from graphic designers on Etsy.

Watch the video below to see how you can customize your iPhone home screen:


Campaign for the right to repair

Organizations like the EFF campaign to free hardware from license agreements, and to invalidate clauses that make it impossible for you to control the things you own.

You can also contact your local hackerspace or library about tips and communities (or even start one of your own).

FAQ: About jailbreaking iPhones

Can Apple see if you jailbreak your iPhone?
Why is Apple against jailbreaking?
What is the jailbreak app on the iPhone?
Lexie is the blog's resident tech expert and gets excited about empowerment through technology, space travel, and pancakes with blueberries.