Posted On August 21, 2012 By In Apple News, Editorials With 1728 Views

Jailbreaking and Unlocking your iPhone, iPad, iPod and Apple TV and is it legal

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jailbreaking iphone

If you have an Apple device running iOS, there is very high possibility you have came across the term jailbreaking. Another term that is all widely used in unlocking your phone (iPhone in this case). There are many websites and phone repair shops offering these services and guidelines to unlock or/and jailbreak iPhone, in most cases for a small fee.  This article would seek to explain both of these terms and its up to you to decide whether this is for you.


Jailbreaking is involves modifying the  iOS  operating system to run unauthorised (i.e not by Apple) codes to access to files and application. After jailbreaking your iOS device an unofficial AppStore referred to as Cydia would allow you to download many 3rd-party applications, themes, and more functionalities.  The lure of having these functionalities, which are usually missing from the iPhone is the biggest reason for most people jailbreaking their iOS devoices.

Is it Legal

There has been many debates on this issue from the onset. Apple’s position on Jaillbreaking in quite clear. In 2010 the company stated:


Apple’s goal has always been to insure that our customers have a great experience with their iPhone and we know that jailbreaking can severely degrade the experience. As we’ve said before, the vast majority of customers do not jailbreak their iPhones as this can violate the warranty and can cause the iPhone to become unstable and not work reliably.


The above statement was in response to a ruling (first appeared in Wired) by the US Copyright Office .It stated that legal breaking of DRM is allowed for – “Computer programs that enable wireless telephone handsets to execute software applications, where circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of enabling interoperability of such applications, when they have been lawfully obtained, with computer programs on the telephone handset. The  US Copyright Office added that,  “The user is not engaging in any commercial exploitation of the firmware. At least not when the jail-breaking is done for the user’s own private use of the device.”

In 2012, there seem to be some concern that the ruling by the US Copyring Office might not be final. As a result, the EFF organisation has put up a petition on their website. According to the website, EFF is asking:


The U.S. Copyright Office to declare that jailbreaking does not violate the DMCA, and we need your help. In 2010, the Copyright Office said jailbreaking smartphones doesn’t violate the DMCA. This year, we’re asking them to renew that exemption (otherwise it will expire) and expand it to cover tablets. We’re also asking for a new exemption to allow jailbreaking of video game consoles.What are the Benefits of Jailbreaking?


On the other side of the pond. Whilst investigating implications of Jailbreaking in the Uk,  Wired spoke to Andres Guadamuz, a lecturer in IT law at the University of Edinburgh. He concluded that, “Although you might be breaking Apple’s terms and conditions and voiding your warranty, I just can’t see how a judge would rule against it.”


The term Unlocking refers to modifying your phone to work on various carriers. When buying a mobile phone, in most cases the carrier will ‘lock’ your phone to their network. This enables carrier to subsidise the price of the phone at the point of sell. However, the carrier would expect to regain their money (and profit) over the contract period of the phone via monthly fees.

There are two types of Unlocking methods – Hardware Unlock Vs. Software Unlock. The hardware approached requires opening your phone and is more technically challenging. However, the software unlock is similar to that of  Jailbreaking, which is much more straightforward.

Is it Legal.

In my opinion it is. In most cases carriers are prepared to unlock your phone when you come to the end of your contract. This is what the Unlock website had to say:


Mobile phone unlocking is NOT illegal, it never has been and I doubt it ever will be. Do you have a legal right to unlock your mobile phone? To answer this question we have to pose another question – do you own your mobile phone? Seems a simple enough question, but the answer is not so simple. If you purchase a ‘Sim Free’ mobile phone or a phone on a ‘Pay As You Go’ tarrif then yes, you own your mobile phone, it is your property. However, if you obtained your mobile phone by signing a contract (12 months, 18 months, 24 months etc.), the phone does not become your property until the contract has been honoured and paid in full, even if you made an initial payment when you signed the contract! So, if you purchased your phone ‘Sim Free’ or on a ‘Pay As You Go’ tarrif then yes, you own your mobile phone and you have a legal right to unlock your phone. If you obtained your phone on contract, it wouldn’t be illegal to unlock your phone, however you may be in breach of your contract terms and therefore could be subject to legal action by the supplier.For example, Apple doesn’t allow you to customize your iPhone by changing app icons or the general user interface of your device.


You can also check out this website to learn more on unlocking your iOS devices.

Personally, I found jailbreaking and unlocking my iPhone and iPads did not add much to my experience. However, the Apple TV is another story. The folks over at Firecore has shown Apple up in a big way. Jailbreaking the Apple TV adds much more functionalities making the device a pleasure to use.

Here is Firecore’s aTV Flash software in action:


So there you have it, just remember jailbreaking or unlocking your iOS devices would void your Apple warranty. This site does not encourage nor condone illegal activities.

Sources: UnlockiPhoneFastFirecoreWiredEFF, idownloadblog

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Storm is a technology enthusiast, who resides in the UK. He enjoys reading and writing about technology.

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