Operating a jailbroken iPhone has drawbacks

Jul 28, 2010
Finance

Be prepared for a few challenges if you want to run a jailbroken iPhone. Also, in today’s App Industry Roundup, expect a new Kindle soon. To jailbreak or not to jailbreak? Just because you can jailbreak an iPhone and run unauthorized software, should you? Many people already do this and there are ardent fans, but in my […]

Be prepared for a few challenges if you want to run a jailbroken iPhone. Also, in today’s App Industry Roundup, expect a new Kindle soon.

To jailbreak or not to jailbreak? Just because you can jailbreak an iPhone and run unauthorized software, should you? Many people already do this and there are ardent fans, but in my experience, it is more of a pain in the butt than a nifty tech trick.

I’ve been operating a jailbroken iPhone for more than a year and I’m sick of it. The iPhone appears sick of me too, as it no longer works like a phone; rather, it has become — perhaps temporarily, perhaps not — an iPod touch.

I was running an iPhone 3G on T-Mobile instead of AT&T (T). Hence, I was running an unlocked and jailbroken iPhone. The ‘unlock’ refers to running it on a carrier other than AT&T, while jailbroken software means I downloaded apps and other goodies not approved by Apple.

My local T-Mobile shop helped me set it up for $40. I left them my iPhone and the T-Mobile SIM card I was using from an unlocked Sony (SNE) Ericsson phone. I came back the next day and I had an iPhone running on T-Mobile’s network.

How many people do this? The number is unclear, but Cydia founder Jay Freeman has said in interviews that up to 10 percent of all iPhones run jailbroken software. (Cydia is a jailbroken App Store.) I’ve also heard that there could be as many as 2 million iPhones operating on T-Mobile’s network. Both numbers seem very high to me. (I have not found an estimate I’d trust yet.)

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Regardless, jailbreaking an iPhone is a very doable process and some say it’s getting easy enough that you don’t need to be very tech savvy to do it. But in my experience, the hassle has not been worth the trouble. On my iPhone, while it worked, I never had 3G speeds; it was all Edge, all the time. I don’t get visual voicemail and apparently I’m very limited to the number of ringtones available to me. But the worst issue is this: when Apple (AAPL) releases an iOS update, you can’t update your phone. You need to wait until the community of jailbreakers, the so-called Dev-Team, comes up with a jailbroken software update you can download onto your phone.

And that can take months, as I have found out.

I needed to update my iPhone software a few months ago for some client work but I forgot (yes, my bad) that when you jailbreak an iPhone, you need to be careful when you update. So I attached my iPhone into my laptop to update the operating system through iTunes. My iPhone software updated all right, but two things happened:

1. It wiped out all the jailbroken programs on my iPhone.

2. I got a message saying Apple did not recognize my SIM card and that I needed to see my carrier to re-activate the phone. And boom, there went my phone.

Trying to get it fixed, I called my people at T-Mobile. They said an update wasn’t available yet — and that was two months after Apple last updated iOS 3. I even talked to the people who jailbreak the phones for my T-Mobile store; they concurred, I was out of luck.

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So I took the SIM card and put it back into the Sony Ericsson. I may get the fix eventually (it’s out now, right?) but I’m seriously considering two other options: getting a new and proper iPhone 4 or an Android phone. Both of those options have far more appeal to me than operating a jailbroken iPhone.

A new Kindle coming?

You can bet on it now. But when? My guess is Labor Day. Amazon (AMZN) is temporarily out of stock on the Kindle, as its recent price reduction to $189 has dwindled supplies. That has hastened speculation that supplies were allowed to run out because Amazon wanted to clear the channel to make room for a new model.

The Kindle, of course, is now battling Apple’s iPad and the Barnes & Noble (BKS) Nook for e-reader dominance. The iPad does so much more but the Kindle is really a great device for readers, and at $189 is finally priced right. So if you went to Amazon today and wanted to buy a Kindle, go ahead. By the time it arrives at your house, it will be a brand new version.

In related news, deceased Swedish mystery novelist Stieg Larsson has sold more than 1 million eBooks through Amazon alone. All three books in Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium Trilogy” (The Girl With the Dragon TattooThe Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest) are currently among the 10 best-selling Kindle books of all time.

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Eric Benderoff

Eric Benderoff is the principal of BendableMedia.com, an editorial services firm, and a founding member of the Appolicious content strategy team. His personal technology column for the Chicago Tribune has appeared in newspapers and websites nationwide. He is a regular guest on Chicago's WGN Radio and is a frequent commentator about consumer technology on national TV news programs.

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