Should Apple embrace Cydia and jailbreaking?

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: March 1, 2011

Unlike Google, not every company wants users to hack and manipulate their operating system seven ways to Sunday. Look at Sony for example. They weren't exactly keen on Geohot turning their PlayStation 3 into a playground for hackers. They took action and, after some time, put an abrupt end to Geohot's fun with a lawsuit and a restraining order. Apple is another company notorious for falling on this side of the fence.

Much to Apple's dismay, the Library of Congress made an exception to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and deemed jailbreaking of iOS devices legal as of last July. This was mainly a precautionary move to prevent you from being sued by Apple if you jailbroke your device. Since then, Apple has made it very clear to users that jailbreaking will void your warranty and they will not have your back if something happens to your device in the act or afterwards.

Apple has made this all a little more serious though, by asking for the government's help in their fight against jailbreaking. I completely understand a company having rights and wanting to protect them. Apple's software is copyrighted and for hackers to manipulate and tweak software to achieve a new end product is – as Apple calls it – copyright infringement. To be more specific, Apple's claim is:

“Current jailbreak technologies now in widespread use utilize unauthorized modifications to the copyrighted bootloader and operating system, resulting in the infringement of the copyrights in those programs.”

Even so, jailbreaking gives devices a serious leg-up in functionality over non-jailbroken devices. Some of the developers who offer their tweaks and mods in Cydia – a known breeding ground for pirated apps and limitless customization options – have some brilliant ideas that take the platform far beyond its stock abilities. They even offer ways to correct the faults that Apple has chosen to ignore. In reality, this is something that Apple should embrace.

Take a minute to look at MobileNotifier. Notifications on iOS are horrible. They are obtrusive, annoying, and always in the way. They also leave loose ends. If you get a text message and close the pop-up, the notification gets swallowed. With the help of MobileNotifier, the notification system on iOS can be what it should have been nearly four years ago. Rather than popping up right in the middle of whatever you are doing, MobileNotifier pops-up at the top of the screen. Tapping the notification will spawn a drop-down box that will allow you to open the notification or dismiss it for dealing with later. To view a dismissed notification, double press the home key like you would to switch applications. In what would normally be blank space, MobileNotifier caches your unattended notifications.

We do know that Apple plans to improve their current notification system in the next iteration of iOS. This is something that may be introduced as soon as tomorrow, but it doesn't change the fact that this horrible implementation has been left cooking for nearly four years. MobileNotifier is just one example. Within Cydia and the countless repositories, there are thousands of tweaks and mods that you can use to make your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch more functional and perform better. That said, there are also many that are poorly coded and will take a chunk out of your precious battery life.

One of Apple's biggest beefs with Cydia is the endless list of pirated or "cracked" software available. Something that might cost you $10 in Apple's App Store may be available to you completely gratis by way of Cydia. I can only imagine the emails Apple receives daily from developers. Something should definitely be done about the piracy going down. However, the harmless tweaks and mods that can be found add a bit of excitement to a platform that would otherwise be drab and boring.

With a serious competitor like Android, having customization options to those who dare is vital. I know of many people that wouldn't think of buying an iPhone or iPad if they couldn't jailbreak it. Apple needs Cydia as much as Cydia needs Apple. If they put an end to jailbreaking and shut down Cydia, Apple will likely feel the pain of hundreds of thousands of user; possibly by those users jumping ship to another platform. (Not Mac-heads, of course.)

Is your iOS device jailbroken? Do you install themes, tweaks, and other software from Cydia? Would you own an iOS device if you couldn't jailbreak it?

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