If Forbes is writing about it, then it must be entering the mainstream, right? According to their calculations, the latest jailbreak for the iPhone’s iOS 6 has been installed over 7 million times since its release last week, which is roughly equivalent to about 2% of the overall iPhone population, and that number is likely to grow over time to 10% according to Jay Freeman, the administrator of the “unofficial” jailbroken iPhone app store, Cydia.
“Jailbreaking” (similar to “rooting” in the Android world) is basically a process that removes the restriction of installing apps from a third-party app store not controlled by Apple. Apps found at Cydia commonly enable iPhones to do things that normally wouldn’t be possible under Apple’s strict programming and content guidelines, such as (before iOS 6) multitasking or something as simple as setting Google’s Map app as the default mapping application when you click on addresses on your iPhone.
What this means for you:
The explosion in popularity of smartphones and tablets has infused cultures everywhere with elements of hacking and tinkering as people become more comfortable with customizing the phone rather than just using “as directed”, right up to the point where they hit the limitations of the device, and in the case of the iPhone, the (sometimes arbitrary) limits set by Apple. Over the years, jailbreaking, once considered arcane and only for the most foolhardy hacker, has now become something simple enough that you could walk your grandmother through the process.
Let’s be real – jailbreaking your grandmother’s iPad is probably not necessary, but if she could do it, then surely you can do it. And if it means being able to finally get rid of Apple’s miserable Maps application and return to trusty Google Maps once and for all, jailbreaking starts to look a lot more inviting. In the end, jailbreaking is about deciding whether Apple’s vision for how you should use your phone or tablet meets your needs (which it does for the majority of Apple customers) or whether you are really ready to “think different.”