Jailbreaking in the iPhone 3.0 era

Apple's iPhone OS 3.0 firmware unlocked many capabilities, but users seek more from their iPhones through jailbroken apps

In a few short years, Apple has established the iPhone as the mobile platform to beat. Each successive firmware update opens new, and often unmatched, features for users and developers to explore. Many of these features, however, find their roots outside Apple's walled-garden approach to the iPhone, as the jailbreak community proves time and again to be an innovative environment for off-limits apps that demonstrate new ways to push the iPhone platform forward.

To be sure, the past year of Apple updates has altered the pre-3.0 iPhone jailbreaking landscape. The company's iPhone 3.0 OS, together with its speedy, feature-enriched iPhone 3G S handset, has brought new software and hardware capabilities that somewhat mitigate the need for jailbreaking. But despite these advancements, as well as warnings that jailbreaking leads to security risks and potential copyright infringement, iPhone jailbreaking continues apace, evidenced by the growing variety of rogue apps available for jailbroken iPhones.

Central to that growth is ongoing developer and user frustration with Apple's enigmatic app acceptability rules, as well as its deliberate hobbling of many application capabilities, such as Web browsing, background processing, voice services, and tethering (in the United States). Jailbreaking also allows users to unlock their iPhones from Apple's exclusive AT&T wireless service contract, freeing them to use their phones on other cellular providers' networks worldwide. These factors, as well as developers' interest in pushing the limits of the iPhone's evolving capabilities, make for a jailbreaking community that is as vibrant as ever.

iPhone OS 3.0: Apple unlocks some features, keeps rein on others Apple's iPhone OS 3.0 opened the iPhone to several features previously available only to jailbroken devices: copy/paste, MMS, push notification, voice recording, global search, HTTP streaming, and peer-to-peer networking. Apple's June release of the iPhone 3G S extended the iPhone's hardware capabilities to include an enhanced camera, integrated magnetic compass, video recording, augmented reality and navigation, and voice control.

There were other signs that Apple might begin lifting restrictions on previously forbidden application categories. Yet it took a very public investigation by the US FCC following Apple's hobbling of Skype and rejection of Google Voice for the iPhone to persuade Apple and AT&T to relent on VoIP telephony. And though apps such as Google Voice and Skype can now be used on the device, limitations still abound. Internet tethering, an intensely desired feature, is one high-profile example. Built into OS 3.0, the capability remains restricted in the United States by monopoly iPhone carrier AT&T.

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Mel Beckman

InfoWorld
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