Adventurous iPhone users willing to jailbreak their device have had third-party applications for almost a year now—so now that the App Store’s open, you may be thinking: So what? Truth is, the iPhone 2.0 software update and its App Store offerings actually are something to talk about. The 2.0 software update has introduced better applications, better app management, and tons of otherexcellent features worth the upgrade, but they still haven’t made jailbreaking obsolete. Here are some ways iPhone 2.0 one-ups jailbreaking, and then the stuff jailbreaking offers that we’re still waiting on from Apple.
What’s Great About iPhone 2.0
- Apps Are Better: While this point may still be up for debate, the offerings available in the first iteration of App Store are impressive. Among other things, developers no longer need to figure everything out as they go along—the iPhone SDK provides them with a robust toolkit for making great applications, and the proof is in the pudding. That’s not to say that several developers who made programs for jailbroken phones didn’t do amazing things, but overall the quality is higher in the App Store.
- iTunes Remote Is Awesome: Everyone’s got their favourite jailbreak app that they hate to leave behind, but one free application that’s almost worth abandoning jailbreaking in and of itself is the iTunes Remote application. Seeing that it’s now a default feature of iTunes, you almost have to wonder why it’s not included with the rest of the default applications—maybe to get people like me to abandon jailbreaking.
- Location-Aware Is the Standard: One thing that you’ll see a ton of in App Store applications is location-aware applications. Location aware apps were available in jailbroken iPhones, but it’s a stronger trend in iPhone 2.0.
- App Store is Better: As impressive as the effort behind Installer.app is, the official App Store is just a much better tool for managing, browsing, and installing applications. Again, that’s not the fault of the jailbreak developers—Apple just has all the tools they need to make it what it should be. When you installed an app on a jailbroken iPhone, your iPhone had to do a soft reset every time. App Store has this very nifty download-and-install interface for downloaded apps that’s markedly better.
- Managing Apps is Easier: Using Installer.app, you had to completely uninstall an application through Installer if you didn’t want it. With the 2.0 software update and the latest iTunes, you’ve got way more flexibility. You can remove an app from the phone itself the same way you deleted web clips in previous versions: Just hold down on an icon until they all start to jiggle, and each installed app will have a black ‘x’ in the corner. Tap the ‘x’ and confirm to remove it. Even better, you can now remove an application from your phone through iTunes. The beauty of this method is that you don’t actually have to uninstall the application altogether, and you can return it to your iPhone with all the application data intact. Definitely not the case for your jailbroken iPhone.
What’s Great About Jailbreaking
- Ditching AT&T: If you’re not into rolling with AT&T or whomever your country’s default iPhone provider is, jailbreaking is still your best avenue for unlocking your phone to use on another GSM cell network. We’ll have to wait and see if a jailbreak shows up for the 2.0 software update (my guess is that it will), but right now you don’t want to go 2.0 if you want to use your phone with anyone but the default carrier. UPDATE: iPhone 2.0 is already jailbroken.
- Background Apps: One of the biggest drawbacks of iPhone 2.0 versus jailbreaking is background applications—namely that your jailbroken apps can keep running in the background while your official apps cannot. That means functionality from great apps like Mobile Scrobbler (sends music data to Last.fm while playing from your iPod) is lost in the wind, and it’s questionable as to whether or not it will ever return. Apple has promised a very interesting workaround for the lack of background apps with push notifications. (In short, apps talk to Apple without your phone, and Apple pings you with any info the app wants to send you.) However, push notifications aren’t going to be available until September. Push notifications will fill a need, but they don’t altogether replace background apps.
- Play By Your Rules: Perhaps the most attractive thing about jailbreaking your phone is that you don’t have to play by Apple’s rules. If you want to install an app to run in the background and drain your battery, that’s your prerogative. With the App Store, Apple can be as strict and arbitrary in what applications it allows and which developers are approved as they want to be. It’s your device, you should get to decide what applications you want to install on it and what you want them to do. If your into customisation, you’re also unlikely to find any Apple-sanctioned applications like Customise or Summerboard (pictured right) to tweak the look of your iPhone. Personalizing and customising your device is what some users live for, and for those folks, jailbreaking is currently the only way. Photo by theopie.
What Else Is Missing
Of course, none of this addresses the iPhone’s still-missing features. Some—like video recording—is already available for jailbroken iPhones but is unavailable from the App Store. Likewise, VoIP is still MIA from the App Store but fully functional on a jailbroken device. Luckily for us, the iPhone 2.0 software has already been unlocked and jailbroken, so it’s not unlikely that you can enjoy the best of both worlds.
Finally, there are other features—like copy-and-paste or MMS messaging—to which we still haven’t seen a practical solution in either avenue. If you’ve gone the jailbreak route in the past, let’s hear what you think of the App Store, iPhone 2.0, and the new iTunes in the comments.