The end is nigh for iOS jailbreaking

Jailbreaks for iOS have all but dried up. Is it time for iPhone and iPad users to give up on the idea of being able to jailbreak their devices.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

The last iOS jailbreak to be made public was for iOS 9.1. That was back in March. Now it's June, and the latest version of iOS is iOS 9.3.2, and there doesn't seem to be a jailbreak in sight.

Is the end nigh for iOS jailbreaking? It sure seems like it.

First off, let me make it clear that I don't consider jailbreaking to be wrong. It's not. That iPhone or iPad you're jailbreaking is your iPhone or iPad, and you can do with it as you wish. Sure, I've come across people who didn't know what they were doing who steered themselves into the tarpits by messing with things they didn't understand, but that's all part of growing up.

On the other hand, Apple doesn't owe you a jailbreak. It sees jailbreaking as undermining the security of the iOS operating system and hardware. While you might be innocently using that jailbreak of your own gear, the same exploit can be used by others for more nefarious purposes.

Also, jailbreaking is used as a piracy tool - don't pretend that some in the community don't do this - and as such Apple has an obligation to defend developers against revenue loss arising from this.

Given how aggressive Apple is about releasing iOS updates, jailbreaks now have a very short lifespan. It's far easier for Apple to patch a vulnerability than it is for the jailbreaking community to find a vulnerability to exploit.

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And remember too that the jailbreaking community doesn't owe anyone a jailbreak. Finding and exploiting vulnerabilities is skilled work, and everyone has bills to pay. Why make a vulnerability free to the jailbreaking community when it could be worth a lot of money to some white hat - or, for that matter, black hat - researcher? The popularity of iPhone and iPads means that there's a constant demand for new exploits from law enforcement, governments, and criminals, and that makes then a valuable commodity.

The economics are weighed heavily against jailbreaking.

So where does this leave jailbreaking?

I'm not going to say it's dead, because there are some brilliant minds within the community, and one vulnerability is all it takes to bring everyone up to the latest iOS release. But I certainly think jailbreaking is dying. The days of jailbreaks coming hot on the heels of new iOS releases are a thing of the past, and those who rely on jailbreaks are going to have to learn to be patient.

Which leads to problem - how long do you keep running and old version of iOS while you hold out for a new jailbreak? Weeks? Months? Years? How long are users willing to run old code for? How long are they willing to run without bug fixes and patches? How long are they willing to miss out on new features for?

While it is possible that someone has a jailbreak for iOS, and is simply holding it back until iOS 9.3.3 is released so as to give it a longer lifespan, we're really only talking of a window of a few weeks at best until Apple plugs the hole and the cat-and-mouse game restarts.

And judging what I've been seeing on social media, and within the jailbreaking communities, patience does seem to starting to wear thin. While the hardcore jailbreakers understand that there's a lot to releasing a working jailbreak, the average entitled user doesn't.

There also seems to be less reason to jailbreak. I get it that this is a personal opinion, but as iOS has matured and improvements and new features have been added, most of the reasons that people were putting forward for jailbreaking a year or so ago moot. That's not to say that here aren't some cool jailbreaks out there. For example, Activator allows you to set up shortcuts and automate tasks, while Browser Change allows you to set a third-party browser as default.

Again, it's your iOS device, so do with it as you wish. But just remember that no one owes you a jailbreak.

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