Vanity and Control (Why I pwn the iPhone)

AT&T could very well be one of the worst mobile phone carriers on Earth. The problems of delayed voice mail and lost messages detailed in a recent Techcrunch diatribe are not unique to that journalist or to any of the millions of American iPhone users otherwise happy with Apple’s innovative device.

Mind you, Apple isn’t completely in the clear. While the App Store has changed the face of mobile computer in exciting and versatile ways, the device is woefully locked down in nearly every respect. I understand the need to corral the user in order to maintain a streamlined and comprehensive user experience (arguably the best in the industry), but the leash Apple users are on is shockingly short in comparison to Android, Blackberry and Palm devices.

With those shortcomings in mind, my reasons for jailbreaking the iPhone are abundantly clear.

Vanity

Wood Shelves ThemeAnnMe ThemeIllumine Theme

As a designer, I love and hate the iPhone. I love it for how gorgeous it is; I hate it for preventing me from imparting my own tastes and aesthetics into the experience.

I partially understand Apple’s distrust of theming capabilities. The fact is, most available themes are horrible. But if you can dig for the gems (like Wood Shelves, AnnMe, Teneo or Illumine) it can really offset the monotony of that cheese-grater-like dock on black.

I know it’s silly to hack your phone to manipulate simple aesthetics. But the again, it’s just as silly to write Greasemonkey scripts replacing favicons you don’t like (here, here and here). Why start denying my nature now?

Control

SBSettingsSkype iPhone app calling over 3GGenesis emulator on iPhone

For a company that continually denies the usefulness and viability of true background applications, Apple sure does allow a lot of their own to eat up precious battery life and memory. If you find yourself using the iPhone to actually get things done, SBSettings is essential. With the swipe of a finger along the header bar, this app will let you kill processes, free memory, adjust brightness and toggle radios anywhere in the OS.

Other restrictions placed on the device are easily bested with a few simple applications. In short order, seemingly impossible tasks like making a Skype call over 3G or playing your favorite NES and Genesis games are easily conquered.

Jailbreaking gives you what Apple and AT&T can’t; unabashed control of your iPhone experience. I just hope some hacker out there is working on a FixAT&TNetwork app…

Update (7/26): As of today, I am un-jailbreaking my phone. In the last month I’ve experienced a greater number of inexplicably missed calls, overheating and loss of battery life than most other iPhone users I talk to. Since this device is my primary phone, I’ve decided to put my foot in my mouth for the sake of potentially more seamless communication.

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