Key TakeawaysJailbreaking iPhones isn't nearly as popular as it once was, and has become even more difficult on Apple's latest Bionic chips.Jailbreaking your iPhone allows you to make additional customizations, like premade themes, but it also opens you up to other risks.Jailbreaking could brick your iPhone, so you still need to know what you're doing before you start the process. Busakorn Pongparnit / Getty Images
Experts say jailbreaking can still be worth it for iPhone users, as long as they know what they're doing.
Jailbreaking—or rooting as it's often referred to on Android—was once a common practice on iPhones. Many would jailbreak their devices to unlock access to unique themes, deeper file browsing, and the ability to install third-party apps. While doing so has become much more difficult, it could still be a good step towards gaining more control over your device. However, there are notable risks involved.
"Jailbreaking your iPhone can leave you vulnerable to several risks that may eventually affect the performance of your device," Tim McGuire, CEO of Mobile Klinik, told Ach5 via email.
"You could damage the system," he continued, "leaving you exposed to hackers who may attempt to infiltrate and introduce malware or viruses [to attack] your device. Jailbreaking essentially removes the security measures taken by Apple designed to protect your phone from various threats. Therefore, you also risk losing the phone's warranty with Apple."
What Is Jailbreaking?
Essentially, jailbreaking allows users to break out of the sandbox Apple has created within the iPhone. This sandbox is like a shield, containing all of the various security fixes Apple has included, as well as protecting access to all the data your iPhone stores. Jailbreaking uses security holes found in this sandbox to remove those barriers, giving you access to things you normally can't get to.
But why risk your phone's warranty and security just for access to more apps and customization? Jailbreaking originally popped up in the early days of the iPhone, before iOS became the big ecosystem it is now.
"Jailbreaking an iPhone doesn't necessarily mean you're going to get hacked. It just means your security is now in your own hands."
"When the first few iterations of the iPhone came out, jailbreaking was very popular," Simon Lewis, co-founder of Certo Software, explained in an email. "Those early iPhones had far fewer features, and while the App Store was still in its infancy, the apps offered were extremely limited."
Because of these limitations, Lewis says many turned to jailbreaking to gain access to additional benefits Apple wasn't offering at the time. Yes, Apple has improved the amount of features available on the iPhone and the App Store has expanded, as well. But, that doesn't stop users from wanting more control over the devices they spend hundreds—sometimes even thousands—of dollars on.
In the Face of Danger
Despite the risks, many still see jailbreaking as a viable way for tech-savvy users to get more out of their phones.
"The apps you can install on a jailbroken iPhone do alleviate a lot of continued pain points," Rex Freiberger, CEO of Gadget Review, told us in an email. "The default Safari browser on iPhone is much less functional than the iPad version, for example. On a jailbroken phone, you can fix this and get back some of that functionality."
"Essentially, jailbreaking allows users to break out of the sandbox Apple has created within the iPhone."
Being able to make small fixes like this is something many users enjoy about the jailbreaking experience. RealCC, one of a few popular jailbreaking apps, can change how the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi toggles in the Control Center work. Other applications, like PercentageBatteryX, are much simpler and only add a bit of text to the battery indicator at the top of your iPhone's screen.Comomolas / Getty Images
Freiberger also says that users who jailbreak their phones can set themselves up with location spoofing—making their internet connection appear to come from somewhere else, similar to a VPN—and even set up a guest mode to keep random users from accessing their private files. He says these two points are just scraping the surface of what's possible.
"On a normal, non-jailbroken iPhone, Apple handles much of the device's security on behalf of the user," Paul Bischoff, a privacy advocate at Comparitech, told Ach5 via email. "Jailbreaking an iPhone doesn't necessarily mean you're going to get hacked. It just means your security is now in your own hands. Apple will no longer serve as a buffer between the iPhone and attackers in many situations."