Apple caused an uproar when it claimed that iOS 9 was “rootless” in May 2015. A jailbreak seemed impossible then. So seasoned jailbreakers started questioning if a jailbreak was really necessary and even started considering life with an unjailbroken device: ” Maybe I could live with it!”
They watched as iOS started offering popular jailbreak-only features: iOS 7 added system toggles to replace SBSettings. iOS 8 made third-party keyboards and third-party widgets possible. iOS 9 offers side-by-side multitasking and picture-in-picture video playback for iPads, essentially giving them “true” multitasking capabilities that people clamored for since the original iPad. Even tweaks from Cydia, like the Swype keyboard, were migrating to the App Store.
So the question is: as iOS moves forward, picking up exclusive jailbreak-only features, what will happen to the jailbreak community? Is jailbreaking unnecessary today?
We may think jailbreak developers are talented in code or design. That is true. Developers make iDevices more functional and productive for each individual, through customizable tweaks like Activator gestures. Themers made iOS much more beautifully crafted and offer different styles for different users, whether minimalistic, monochrome, or improving iOS’ overly simplistic artwork.
But they are more. With the power to tweak any aspect of iOS they wish, I prefer to call them “empowered users”. They use their iDevices like average people, and deeply understand what should be improved. Steve Jobs is known to say, “people don’t know what you want until you show it to them”, but I’ll have to disagree here — users know themselves best where iOS can do better. It’s no coincidence that since iOS 4 or so, Apple has consistently been “borrowing” ideas from jailbreakers. Remember Backgrounder for ancient iOS versions and how pseudo-multitasking first came to iOS?
Jailbreakers are in fact helping iOS. Although only a handful of tweaks out of thousands in Cydia actually make it to stock iOS, the ones that do are pretty handsomely implemented by Apple’s skilled developers – in fact better than the original tweaks themselves, because Apple knows iOS better and can enhance performance and blend features in to make them as user-friendly as iOS is well-known for. But we can’t deny that jailbreakers are always a step ahead of iOS, and they help Apple pave the way for a more productive, customizable iOS experience.
On the other hand, what does jailbreaking mean for users?
Maybe stock iOS 20 may let you change your system font – that’s just a wild assumption – but even then, the jailbreak community will still live. Why? Because the iOS game will still be slow, and experienced users still want to be ahead of it. For a long time consensus has been that Android beats iOS in the customization game, so it is certainly frustrating for iOS users to not get to enjoy theming and the like. But they always have the choice to simply jailbreak and get a plethora of customization options. Even if iOS does gain more customization features, I highly doubt it will be as awesome as Cydia’s offerings. Even as today’s iOS matures (compared to iOS 7 at least), it is still a shame in comparison to what top-rated jailbreak developers meticulously craft.
So when iOS 10 drops, we may see familiar features to the jailbreak community – but in the meantime, I’ll still want to jailbreak it to get tomorrow’s features today. There’s nothing Apple can do to stop jailbreakers – the iOS 9.0.x jailbreak was defiantly released, belittling Apple’s rootless claim. Jailbreaks will undoubtedly live on to provide better scenery than Apple’s walled garden.