Smartphones are much more complex than traditional cell phones. The operating systems in smartphones are more like that of a computer, and its security measures are extensive. Smartphones have measures put in place that limits the kind of software you can have on the device. “Jailbreaking” refers to circumventing these measures in order to breach certain security features and place “unauthorized” software on the device.
For example, Apple only allows iPhone users to download apps from the App Store, but by jailbreaking the phone, a user could download apps unavailable there. Other than downloading third-party applications, jailbreaking your phone can also allow you to add custom notification sounds and ringtones, give you more options for organizing and managing your files, like adding a fifth icon to the dock on the iPhone home screen, and more. However, there are many who argue that jailbreaking smartphones can be dangerous.
Tech companies like Apple warn against jailbreaking, saying that it can leave phones open to malicious attacks. Despite objections from these companies, jailbreaking is legal. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an non-profit organization dedicated to digital rights, asked that jailbreaking should be added to a list of exemptions for anti-circumvention measures, arguing that it merely protected service providers and not individuals. As a result, The Digital Millennium Copyright Act added the exemption, making it legal to jailbreak smartphones (though the law does not extend to other devices such as tablets and game consoles).
Just because jailbreaking is legal, does that make it a good idea? Jailbreaking does involve certain risks. Jailbreaking your smartphone requires root access to the phone’s operating system, which can open the door for malicious attacks and leave the smartphone, and thus its user, vulnerable. Smartphone users with jailbroken phones have also cited issues like decreased battery life, general instability, and increased data usage, likely because unauthorized apps do not have to adhere to guidelines that authorized apps have in place.
In addition to these issues, people have even reported smartphone being rendered completely useless following jailbreaking, requiring them to completely reset their phones, wiping all of the phone’s data and reverting to its factory settings. While advancements are being made every day in jailbreaking technology, a jailbroken phone will likely always be open to more bugs and certain security risks than an untampered smartphone.
For the average smartphone user, jailbreaking your phone probably isn’t all that necessary. Especially as smartphones are becoming more advanced, the apps or other features that many users jailbreak their phones to acquire are becoming available through service providers’ operating systems. Not to mention, advanced technology also means advanced security features, making it harder to jailbreak a smartphone.
There is not a yes or no answer as to whether you should jailbreak your smartphone or not. Just make sure that you are aware of the risks that you may be open to with a jailbroken phone.