At River Run we have had quite a few curious minds ask us about their latest smartphones, and whether or not it is a good idea to “jailbreak” or “root” their phone. There are plenty of reasons why or why not to jailbreak your phone, but more importantly everybody should first understand what it means exactly to jailbreak a phone.
Essentially, the primary purpose of jailbreaking or rooting a smartphone is to allow the phone to install and run third-party applications, freeing it from the limitations imposed on it by the device manufacturer and the carrier. For example, iPhone’s that are not jailbroken can only run applications obtained through Apple’s App Store.
Primarily speaking, the term jailbreaking is used in reference to Apple’s iPhone, shortly after its release in 2007. In fact, the first iPhone went on sale on June 29, 2007, and the first jailbreak was publicized on July 10, 2007. Soon groups dedicated to hacking the iPhone released jailbreaking applications so people without hacking skills could release their phones from AT&T and Apple’s lockdown.
Rooting is a term used in reference to the Android operating system, describing a similar process. In both jailbreaking and rooting, you take administrative control over the operating system. However, the purpose of rooting is a little different than jailbreaking. Android phones are not locked into running only apps that come from the Android Marketplace, but some apps require rooting. Rooting also enables you to install a custom ROM to run versions of Android that the handset maker doesn’t supply or support. Mobile phone carriers often place limitations on the phones they provide, and rooting lets you circumvent those limitations.
Is Jailbreaking or Rooting a Phone Legal?
Previously, jailbreaking or rooting your phone was considered illegal under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) enacted in 1998. However, last month on July 26th, Federal regulators lifted a cloud of uncertainty when they announced it was lawful to hack or "jailbreak" a phone.
Why Would I Want to Jailbreak or Root My Phone?
Jailbreaking or rooting allows the owner to do everything from customizing the look of your phone to installing third-party applications and customizations. Depending on how far you are willing to go, you can do even more than that: Jailbreaking even allows you to unlock your phone so you can use it with a carrier other than the one it was intended for. The customization options are endless for jailbroken or rooted phones.
Why Wouldn't I Want to Jailbreak or Root My Phone?
Once you jailbreak or root your phone, essentially, you are on your own. You may have voided your warranty, so you can't rely on your carrier or the manufacturer to fix any problems you encounter. All of the applications that jailbreak your phone are unauthorized and could damage or completely disable your phone. Your useful smartphone could end up as nothing more than a very expensive paperweight. It is true that if you do it incorrectly, you could end up with a useless device, especially when installing a custom ROM. However, in most cases, you can restore the phone to the factory settings if a mistake is made.
Perhaps a more important concern is that jailbreaking or rooting can compromise the security and or reliability of your smartphone. Remember, these phones are actually full-fledged computers, albeit small ones. The devices are vulnerable to malware and attacks just like laptop and desktop systems. An advantage of getting apps from Apple’s App Store is that the apps have been tested thoroughly. This applies, to a lesser extent, to the Android Marketplace. Unofficial apps can contain malicious code, or they may just be poorly written and cause your phone’s OS to crash. When applications have root access, they can do a great deal of harm to your phone’s software.
If you do decide the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, there are a number of tools available to help you with either jailbreaking or rooting your phone. A simple Google search will result in numerous websites, step by step videos and applications to assist you. River Run strongly recommends you weigh out all the pros and cons before attempting to alter your phone in any way.