The latest trend in mobile phones is people modifying their iPhones. For many people, it’s no longer enough to have a “stock” phone that is littered with restrictions by Apple and your cell phone carrier. In this field however, one question constantly comes up; what is the difference between unlocking and jailbreaking your iPhone?
Many people believe that the two are actually the same thing. They are not. In fact, one of them (jailbreak) is actually required for the other in many cases.
When you jailbreak your iPhone you’re essentially opening it up from Apple’s restrictions. Apple places tight restrictions on user’s ability to modify their phone. Every app that is submitted to the app store has to go through a rigorous verification process. If Apple notices anything in the app that will negatively impact battery life or give the user an option to do something that they could otherwise charge for then they will deny it from release.
Jailbreaking your iPhone will allow you to circumvent the app store altogether. It will allow you to install a new app store, called Cydia, that people can submit apps to without them being approved by Apple. The apps on the store are limitless and many of them are far more useful than the things you will find in the Apple endorsed app store.
You’ll find apps that will allow you to do things like tether your phone to your laptop or tablet without paying a monthly fee. There’s an app called MyWi that will trick your phone into thinking it is using WiFi even when you’re only using 3g/4g, which will allow you to download large files that the phone would normally only allow you to download via WiFi.
If you’re a less nefarious user there are still plenty of things on Cydia that will make you want to consider installing a jailbreak. One of the big advantages to an iPhone jailbreak is the level of customization it unlocks on your phone. Forget wallpapers, now you’ll have the ability to modify the entire theme of your phone right down to the base icons. Want your phone to look like it came straight out of Tron? No problem. Want your icons to be transparent? It can be done. Want five icons in your permanent app bar rather than four? Cydia will let you do that with the click of a button.
If you’re worried about the legality of Jailbreaking, allow me to put your mind at ease. After iPhone jailbreaks really started picking up steam, Apple tried to stop it via a lawsuit. The court ruled that it was perfectly legal, so you’re safe in doing it.
Unlocking an iPhone is completely different than jailbreaking it. An unlock does not open up new apps or features on your phone. Rather, unlocking your phone removes the carrier restriction that comes with your phone and allows you to use it with any carrier.
Normally when you buy a cellphone it has to be used on the network you bought it for. If you buy an iPhone through AT&T then you can only use that phone with AT&T service. Unlocking will allow you to use that phone on any matching service regardless of who the carrier is. That means that you can buy an AT&T phone and use it with your T-mobile plan, provided you’ve unlocked the phone. This is especially useful in the case of exclusive phones like the iPhone. Normally you couldn’t use an iPhone on T-Mobile because they don’t have a contract with Apple, but with the process of unlocking you can buy an AT&T iPhone, unlock it, and then use it on T-Mobile.
The unlocking process typically involves first jailbreaking your phone. There are a few software packages out there that will allow you to do it without a jailbreak, but not many. Typically the process is that you jailbreak your phone, install Cydia, and then unlock the phone using a program you downloaded via Cydia.
There are currently iPhone 4 unlock solutions available, but the ability to unlock iPhone 4s phones is still in progress and expected very soon. iPhone 3gs unlocks are also available presently, and when the iPhone 5 releases it will likely be several months before an unlock solution is available for it.