iOS Anatomy: Unlocking & Jailbreaking an iOS device

In Mobility & Consumer Tech by NextBigWhat

iPhone 5Hacking iOS devices isn’t a new thing but for new users, it could be a daunting task. Although frowned upon by Apple, hacking an iOS device can give you access to features otherwise not available and also customise your device.

For those who’d like to make their iOS devices a tad more interesting, here is a brief jargon buster for the different kinds of hacks for different stages of device usability available. Hacking a phone isn’t exactly recommended but if you want to do it nevertheless, here’s what you need to know.

The iOS uses 2 partitions. One for the primary OS, which is about 600mb. And the other for media, which is about the capacity of the iPhone minus 600mb (approx.)

UNLOCK an iOS Device

This process involves opening up the iPhone’s modem to accept SIM (Subscriber Identity Modules) cards from unofficial carriers. Users mainly resort to unlocking in order to use SIM cards from a different preferred carrier with better offerings. The iPhone modem is controlled by a baseband processor, which has a  firmware of its own. The unlock works by exploiting certain security holes in the firmware, which in turn bypasses the SIM check procedure in the iPhone. There is a software and also a hardware unlock available for the iPhone. Usually during an iPhone software update the baseband firmware is also updated. Unlocking is a reversible process. The iPhone can be reverted to it’s “Carrier Locked” state by updating it to the latest iOS update through iTunes.

Types of Unlocking

1. Using modified SIM cards. This process involves inserting a another modified SIM along with the preferred carrier SIM into the SIM-tray of the iPhone. Even though simple, this procedure at times crates signal reception problems.

2. Using software unlock. This process involves exploiting the baseband firmware using an application, through a MAC or a PC. This is usually a simple procedure.

3. Official Unlock. In countries where sale of carrier locked phones are not allowed, iPhones are available unlocked by Apple itself. Nowadays they are sold alongside the locked iPhones, but at a premium.

Unlocking Notes

  • Unlocking is illegal.

  • Unlocking will void your Apple warranty. But this can be fixed by restoring the iPhone software to the ‘Locked’ state before submitting for repair. This usually will not happen with Modified SIM unlocks as they do not modify the software.

  • Software updating an unlocked iPhone can put the iPhone back into the locked state until a new unlock for the new firmware is found.

  • Trying to unlock without proper procedure and steps can also lead to a bricked iPhone.

JAILBREAK an iOS Device

Jailbreaking is merely the term used for getting to the root file of Apple operating system (iOS) and modifying it to grant the access to full features and functionality of the OS. This thereby provides permission to install applications that are not available at Apple store, modify files and other such features which Apple denies access to on stock devices.

By default, file management on Apple devices is restricted through the use of iTunes or other similar open source applications, Jailbreaking enables FTP and SSH access on the devices which give a more direct access to the files on the devices.

Types of Jailbreaking

1. Tethered Jailbreak – This type of jailbreak requires the device to to connected to a PC/Mac to be rebooted after its been switched off or the battery dies off. This type of jailbreak is not usually convenient.

2. Untethered Jailbreak – This type of jailbreak does not require the device to be connected in order to reboot it. The device can be turned on as done normally.

3. Semi-Tethered Jailbreak – This type of jailbreak is relatively new. In this jailbreak the device has to be connected to a PC/Mac to be rebooted to the jailbroken state, but the device can still be switched on without the PC/Mac and limited functionality will be restored to them i.e Phone App, Message App etc.

Jailbreaking Notes

  • According to the latest DMCA rules jailbreaking your iPhone or iPod Touch is fine, although there is no exemption for jailbreaking iPad’s.

  • Installing cracked Apps is illegal, as cracking an App is an act of piracy.

  • Sometime Apps are rejected by the iTunes Store due to their malicious nature, hence installing unapproved Apps is not always recommended.

  • Warranty is void on Jailbroken devices.

  • Jailbroken devices can be restored to the factory state by restoring to the stock OS through iTunes.

  • The term jailbreaking is common with Apple devices, but it can also be used to describe similar procedures on other devices.

* Unlocking and Jailbreaking should be done with caution. If not done properly may also brick the device.

Recommended Read: How to Bring your Bricked Device Back to Life