Hoo boy. First off, H/T to iClarified, from whom I learned of all this news. Go there for the latest updates.
Earlier today, a jailbreak team called “Evad3rs” released a much-anticipated jailbreak for iOS 7. Stay away from it.
Jailbreaking, if you’re unfamiliar with it, means using special software to modify your iPhone or iPad to bypass Apple’s App Store, allowing any software from any developer to do anything with the device, rather than only the titles that Apple has approved, which does the things Apple thinks are ok. In other words, it gives developers and users the same access to the operation of their iPhone and iPad that they have with their personal computers. As far as I understand, and IANAL, Apple won’t support you if they discover you’ve done it (and it’s easy to undo), but it’s not illegal in the U.S. — though people argue about this.
What’s the point? As an example, one of the most common reasons people want to jailbreak their devices is to change its visual appearance — different fonts, different colors, different whatever, across the whole device. Apple doesn’t give official developers the power to do this, because they want a consistent, controlled visual experience when you’re not within an app. Apple has, over each release of iOS, brought in some capabilities that people would jailbreak for, such as the Notifications Center in iOS 5, and the new Control Center in iOS 7.
Jailbreaking is made possible by finding security flaws — a.k.a. bugs — in iOS. Usually, once someone releases jailbreaking software, Apple checks it out to see how they did it, and then plugs those holes in the next update to iOS, and the jailbreak stops working if you update. On a jailbroken device, there is usually some “alternate universe” app store, for jailbreak app developers to have a centralized, easy way of distributing their software. While there have been a few of these app stores in the past, Cydia is overwhelmingly the longest-lasting one, to the point that it’s considered part and parcel of jailbreaking.
Jailbreaking has nothing formally to do with unlocking, which is letting your phone work with a different cell phone carrier than it was intended for; it also has nothing formally to do with cracking or software piracy, where you’re able to get something otherwise on the Apple App Store for free. Jailbreaking has facilitated both of these activities, but only in the sense that it opens your phone up to the same access that you have with your computer. The original jailbreak was created by developers wanting to write apps for iPhones before Apple even made it possible to do so at all. (The original iPhone had no App Store.)
Proponents of jailbreaking — and I’m inclinded to believe most of them — argue that they are simply providing developers and users the freedom to stroll around outside Apple’s “walled garden” that is iOS, and that its purpose is not to cheat anyone. (I’m sure Apple sees it differently, since they see being able to control the user’s iOS experience, and its perception of their devices being secure, as incredibly valuable.)
Well, all that got called into question today. A well-regarded “jailbreaking supergroup” called Evad3rs — who developed the previous iOS 6 jailbreak — surprised everyone by releasing a jailbreak for iOS 7 today. Here’s what made this one different than all those which preceded it:
– They released it before Apple released the well-into-development iOS 7.1 release, thereby meaning Apple will have a good shot at defeating the jailbreak by the time iOS 7.1 is out. The conventional wisdom was that Evad3rs, if they even had a jailbreak method that worked, would hold on to it so it could still be used once 7.1 is out. Most users are going to want to upgrade to 7.1 (or will receive it on new devices), so this potentially makes the jailbreak of much less widespread impact if it will only work on 7.0.x devices.
– They didn’t notify Jay Freeman (a.k.a. Saurik), the author of Cydia, thereby providing no guarantees that Cydia or related applications will work correctly. Cydia is the central point of most users’ jailbreak usage. Jay’s twitter feed is a popular place today.
– The jailbreakers went to pains to obfuscate their method, rather than the usual proud public detailing of how they did it.
– Here’s the kicker: if Chinese is the default language on the phone, a whole different Chinese-language app store goes onto the device called TaiG, while Cydia is an optional installation. And…drum roll…the TaiG store has pirated versions of apps otherwise available in Apple’s App Store. Whoops!
The recriminations are flying fast and furious as I write this. There are claims that the Evad3rs were paid handsomely to include the TaiG app store in their jailbreak; that the release was rushed because a competing “team” or individual had a jailbreak ready (and a leaked recording is out suggesting this is true despite denials); that personal data is transmitted to a Chinese company; that Saurik all along knew about TaiG and warned the Evad3rs about dealing with them; that the Evad3ers knew there would be piracy but didn’t care; that they didn’t know but were naïve. And all this is still unfolding. So nice for scandal to be something fun for a change.
As a company, IvanExpert discourages jailbreaking, since it exposes devices to potential security risk, and no support from Apple; it is not a service we will perform. As an individual, I have no opinion about it one way or the other. With that said, jailbreaks have in the past had negative side effects on application stability and battery life, especially upon first release, like any other software, so the general advice I would have would be to avoid it if you don’t need it.
However, in this specific case, with so much unknown and questionable about this particular jailbreak, I’d say stay far, far away, at least for now.