Google have given their Android Market app store a bit of tidy up, in what games developers must feel is a long-overdue cull of emulator apps. Those looking to play retro console games on their Android handsets are going to...
To jailbreak or not to jailbreak? That IS the question.
Whether it is nobler to remain under the hawkish glare of Apple omnipotence or cast off the shackles of UI oppression and embrace customizable interfaces, 3rd party apps and video-streaming!
So you've had your iPhone for a while now, and things, like in any relationship, are getting a little stale. The app store isn't the treasure trove of fun and surprises it once was. You've played one tilt-to-drive go-kart game, you've played them all. What are you going to do?
You've heard people talking about this thing - jailbreaking. You know people with jailbroken iPhones, you've seen them playing ROMs of California Games and Super Mario World; texting without closing down the app they're in; running several apps at the same time. And you want that. Who could blame you? It's not wrong to want that. But you want to know the risks.
No one likes to feel like someone else own's their phone. With Apple thats how I started to feel. It started with the iRail app - a free train time app that was unceremoniously axed from my phone without my permission. I thought it was a software error, but then other apps started disapearing, my tethering app, a poor-taste game. What was going on?
An hour of googling later and I was miffed. Apple, in their infinite wisdom had anexed them and this trend contiuned. It seemed that Apple's reign over their App Store was becoming at best, undemocratic and at worst tryanical and oppressive.
It was the tethering that broke the camels back for me. I needed tethering for work, and if I'm paying £45 a month for unlimited data, surely the means by which I view that data is incidental.
I broke free. I jailbroke free. The process is relatively painless, just download the appropriate version of QuickPWN, plug your iPhone into a USB and follow the instructions and minutes later you're free. If you're anything like me, after you've jailbroke, you'll feel like a massive badass, the underbelly of tech-society, a renegade living outside the law - Arnie in Total Recall, Tom Cruise in Minority Report, Will Smith in Enemy of the State, Peter Sallis in Last of the Sumer Wine.
Rebooting your phone for the first time you'll find two new App tiles. One called Cydia and one called Installer, these are your gateways to a world of Apps to which Apple said, "no". Some because they stretch copyright laws, roms and emulators, dtunes (a torrent downloader (and awesome)) and other because they were pretty flat out illegal. But some just because Apple think they know best.
With no opportunity to customize your interface, the Apple springboard eventually becomes a dull and desolate place. Winterboarder - available from Cydia allows it user to customize their springboard entirely, installing themes and backgrounds of whatever they like.
And that's just the beginning. Once jailbroken the scope and the real potential of the iPhone soon becomes apparent. What becomes less apparent though is why Apple would stymie the genius of some developers, blocking their Apps and forcing them to resort to flogging them to the jailbroken underbelly.Intelliscreen being the most pertinent example. An app that allows you to view your email and SMS inboxes, Calendar and RSS feeds in neat little boxes on your phone's locked page. Its awesome and ridiculously handy. Its the kind of thing that if it had been on the App store everyone would have it, it would be one of those ubiquitous Apps, like Remote or Air Mouse. But it's not, it's been cast out, like a lame fawn, to the cold, and it doesn't make sense.
Top 3 Jailbroken dos
1. Do get Flixwagon - free live video streaming. The applications of which are potentially enourmous. Your own live web-TV show anyone?
2. Do download Cycorder a free video recorder for the iPhone.
3. Do ROM your ass off with ZodTTD's emulators.
NOT TO JAILBREAK
So sheepishly, after exhausting all the free alternatives, you return to your local Apple store, hoping for some redemption. And in the shop you feel like you don't belong. You remember how it felt to belong. But now you're an outsider. You broke away. You book yourself a time with a 'genius' and patiently wait, looking at the prices of all the software you've torrented - which makes you feel better.
"My phone's not working, I woke up this morning and it just wouldnt turn on," you lie. They look at you and you know they don't believe you, but you persevere as jovially as possible. "Can you guys just wipe it and restore it or something." Anything would do now, all your jailbroken goodies, all your music, it can go aslong as you can get your little iPhone back working. They plug it in and press some short cuts - they wait. The tension is unbearable.
"This is a...jailbroken iPhone?" You've been rumbled. You'll feel like you should take a hostage, they're going to grab you. "I'm sorry we can't help you" - bit of an anticlimax.
Out on the street again you wander through those back-street mobile phone shops, none of them know what you're on about, no one can help you, and all of a sudden your sexy 21st century media and communication device is gone and you're holding £100 paper-weight.
Top 3 jailbroken don'ts
1. Break your iPhone.
2. Drop your iPhone.
3. Break your iPhone.
SO WHAT YOU GOING TO DO PUNK?
When all is said and done it really is up to you. Either you've got the ball or you haven't. The advantages of jailbreaking are numerous and palable and when it's working a jailbroken iPhone is a massive improvement on the normal iPhone. But you've got to be prepared for the fact that if things go wrong, and they might, it's gone - forever and ever and ever and Apple won't lift a finger to help you.
This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Jailbrokenland and find out how deep the rabbit-hole goes.
Smug as Frenchman who's just found a bag of horizontally striped t-shirts in just his size, you galivant about town showing off your new jailbroken iPhone with its 5 App dock to your lame, normal or "oppressed" iPhone friends. Until one night, probably drunk, you drop it. You've dropped it loads of time before. It'll be okay. But as you turn it over the screen is blank. Pants! Pants o'clock! It's okay, it turns on, but just that Apple icon, two minutes later still the Apple icon, five minute later, 10, still the Apple logo. It's broken. And the Apple logo is mocking you. It's saying: "You turned your back on me, you thought I was gone, but I'm still here, you'll never get rid of me...I know all your secrets."