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The Pros And Cons Of A Tethered iOS Jailbreak

iOS 5 has been available for download and install for almost a month, but jailbreak options remain limited: only a tethered jailbreak is available and that’s likely to be the case for some time. If you want to jailbreak now, however, it’s your only option. Here’s a look at what’s really involved with a tethered jailbreak and if it’s worth it for you.

What Is A Tethered Jailbreak?

When you jailbreak your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, you probably want it to function after a restart or freeze. If you have a tethered jailbreak, it won’t. If you perform a tethered jailbreak, you need a computer to help your iDevice boot up and it involves a little more effort than just clicking a button. To boot tethered, you have to connect your device to your computer, open up your jailbreak application of choice (e.g. redsn0w or limera1n), put your device into DFU mode, and tell the jailbreak app to boot tethered. This process takes about half the time it takes to actually jailbreak your device, so it’s not exactly something you want to do often. When you’re installing jailbreak hacks your device will often need to reboot, and iOS 5 could stand to be a little more stable (mine freezes at least once a week) so you can expect to boot tethered with some regularity.

Should I Jailbreak Tethered?

Although the situation (as described above) may seem grim, there are upsides to tethered jailbreaking. There are, of course, some serious downsides as well. Knowing what they are will help you make a more informed decision. (Please note that there is no jailbreak of any kind yet for the iPhone 4S and iPad 2, so this only applies to other devices.)

Pros

  • The biggest advantage, obviously, is that your iDevice is jailbroken.
  • You can now boot semi-tethered, which means if your device does freeze or need to reboot you can still use it with limited functionality. You won’t be able to use your jailbreak hacks in this state, but you will have access to your phone and other built-in applications (with a few exceptions, such as Mobile Safari).
  • Booting tethered won’t happen often and only takes a few minutes to do.

Cons

  • A tethered jailbreak means you have to connect to a computer to boot your device. This is bad if you don’t have access to one because your device will not function at all (unless you install SemiTether, which allows for limited functionality).
  • Many jailbreak apps and tweaks are not yet compatible with iOS 5, so even if you’re jailbroken you may not be able to do what you want to do.
  • The tethered iOS 5 jailbreak was released to allow jailbreak developers to test their apps. It wasn’t intended for general use. Expect bugs and stability issues.

So…What Should I Do?

If you don’t mind waiting for an untethered jailbreak then you should absolutely wait. If you can’t go another day with a jailed iDevice, a tethered jailbreak might be worthwhile. If you keep your device at home most of the time (I’m looking at you, iPad) or have access to a Mac or Windows computer nearly everywhere you go, you probably won’t find the tethered jailbreak too frustrating. The primary downside in your case, however, is that your jailbreak apps and tweaks may not work. What you should do is perform the tethered jailbreak, test everything you want to test, and see if it’s worth keeping. If not, just restore your iDevice in iTunes to remove the jailbreak and wait patiently until the iOS jailbreakers have finished fine-tuning their exploits.

All in all, you probably don’t want to jailbreak tethered. If you’re comfortable with the jailbreaking process, have access to a computer when needed, and are feeling a little desperate then go for it. Otherwise, be patient.

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