It’s been a while since we encountered some seemingly illegal terms like jailbreaking, rooting, and unlocking. In some countries, these words come already in forms of professional or paid services, i.e., you will only pay for an equivalent amount if you want to unlock your phone, for example. But what do they really mean? I mean, do these terms really matter these days?
Background of the case
Each manufacturer or wireless network provider/carrier has their own way of protecting their copyrighted products. A smartphone, for example, is ‘locked’ or ‘limited’ by its manufacturer against malicious or unsafe operations such as installing 3rd-party apps or tools, tweaking into the system, and even changing some perimeters which may or may not affect the device’s and user’s security.
Let’s take Apple as a good example. We’ve known the company for a while now as that which offers ‘exclusively designed’ products. By ‘exclusive,’ I mean Apple will only want to marginalize a particular experience to users and owners, making them maximise and only use apps or products that they allow—or particularly, those which they manufactured or developed also. If you have an iPhone 5, for example, you can only use accessories and apps from Apple, and that’s just it.
Outside the manufacturers’ perspective, another form of locking may also be ordinated by wireless network carriers. This is familiar to all of us: subscriptions known as plans mostly come with a device claimed to be ‘free’ and monetized annually or else. However, the devices that come along with the contract is locked to that particular network only, hence you cannot use the device with another SIM card or network. If you bring your phone to another country, unless you want to pay whopping roaming charges, having a network-locked phone can be inconvenient.
Differences between the terms
Jailbreaking and rooting actually refers to almost the same or equal idea: by doing so, you are trying to get access into the ‘root’ area of a device. However, generally speaking, Jailbreaking often refers to that act when applied to iOS devices, and rooting on the other hand applies for the procedure done in Android.
However, there are also some minor differences, though this may vary from time to time and from one device to another. One particular difference is that, when you pulled your iPhone or iPad for a jailbreaking, you are actually (generally) intending to use third-party software. Apple prohibits and negates the use of third-party applications on their devices to maintain their profitability, but if you encountered a third-party app which may deem too helpful and unique, chances are you want to get your iOS device jail-broken.
Rooting, on the other hand, which mostly applies to Android devices, refers to a more technical aspect. Most Android devices provides an easy check box if you want to use third-party applications, but rooting comes in helpful if you want to override manufacturer-specific settings like bloatware (those apps or even a customized theme that you cannot delete or uninstall) and even user interface. Rooting allows you to take control of the device in an administrative level which is almost identical to a developers’ level in this case, giving you access to a lot of settings which the manufacturer may not have set open for you.
Lastly, unlocking generally refers to network-specific settings, letting you use a SIM card or wireless service from a different network provider regardless the country. Locked devices usually hint you with an error message if you are trying to use a different network. If you are irritated by this, then unlocking is but the only solution.
While jailbreaking generally refers to that procedure done on Apple devices, technically it is done for close-source framework or operating systems (in contrast to Android, for example, which is an open-source operating system).
There are a lot of methods used to achieve a jailbreak, and generally, it is quite easy as 1-2-3 and it doesn’t take too much time after all. Usually, to do so, a technician would plug the device to a computer, and achieves a jailbreak using a specific software. There are also a lot of tools spread across the internet, but the dangers are quite obvious especially because you may not know which one is really safe and secure to use. Also, to a lot of cases, jailbreaking works by exploiting or taking advantage of the OS’s vulnerable access points or ‘backdoors,’ allowing them to play around the manufacturer’s pre-set security perimeters.
Lastly, jailbreak can also be used for Windows RT systems and other minor systems which prohibits the use of third-party apps or tools. There’s not a really well-known tool out there so far, and particularly because the issue is not really that pronounced as that of iOS devices.
On the other hand, rooting which generally works and is known for Android, is also effective to the retiring Symbian devices (the operating system used by Nokia, for example) and some UNIX or Linux devices.
Since the Android system in general is open-source, there are a few device models out there which permit a Superuser request. Rooting permissions may also come directly from the device’s manufacturer. However, if you are planning to have your device rooted on your own or by someone else, the steps can be quite more delicate and technical when compared to the usual known procedure of jailbreaking an Apple device.
Advantage 1: You get access to a lot of ‘super features’ that the manufacturer might have set behind your reach. You can uninstall ‘bloatware’ such as stock wallpapers and apps. You can override the battery performance. You can tweak with how your CPU works. You can enhance your operating system.
Advantage 2: Just to give emphasis, breaking into your device will also make your phone extra capable and extra geeky. You can use apps that are so incredible but were once not available on the company’s market such as Google Play. You can remove those which are slowing your phone’s system down. You can even make your phone look so advanced—more advanced than what was prepared by the factory.
Advantage 3: By going beyond what you can usually do with a smartphone, you can also get more technical, such as creating custom ROM images for backup and recovery purposes. By doing so, you can feel better with your phone properly backed sector-by-sector just in case the system fails.
Advantage 4: You can also use the leak versions of updates that usually will come late in your country. For example, if you are using a model with a 4.1 version of Android, you can check online for the latest like the 4.2.2, and apply it on your own.
Disadvantage 1: The biggest disadvantage for you as a customer or buyer of a device if you are to employ a rooting method is that, it will make your warranty or support promise null and void. Though again this is only the most usual case, some may not even be bothered at all especially because some modern tools have the unique feature of reverting a system back to its manufacturer’s settings.
Disadvantage 2: For a lot of countries also, unlocking or rooting a device is illegal, more if the device is under a commitment with a company. Serious fines and penalties have been ordered already to those who will perform such ‘criminal’ activities. Otherwise as mentioned, however, some cases only require the use of necessary permissions to do these acts, but for the case of Apple, there’s no excuse.
Disadvantage 3: Jailbreaking can also cause some serious damage to your Android or iOS device. The steps and the technical background necessary are all but expected to be done only by ‘experts.’ If you are not sure to whom you can entrust the procedure, then don’t do so.
Disadvantage 4: And more with safety, while some great security apps work only on rooted device, some apps are actually channels for cybercrimes such as identity theft, phishing, scams, etc. Tweaking the system on the administrative level can also open a window of vulnerability on your device, which can also affect you along the way. The rule to these operations is that you must really know the craft, as many of the cases are highly irreversible and can be very dangerous.
Using and customizing your smart device can be really fun and more engaging. Doing so will allow you to get access to a lot of settings you once deemed impossible or limited. You can change the interface, the experience, the performance of the device, and so on. Moreover, you can maximize your device’s potential whenever and wherever you want it to be.
However, going beyond these limits can also affect your overall security and experience as well. Before you do so, be sure that you know what you will be doing at the highest clearance level possible. Doing so can destroy your device, can affect your life, and you can even be penalized.
Unless you are pretty sure of the consequences and you are willing to shoulder the risks without affecting others, unlocking, jailbreaking, or rooting your device can be pretty commendable.