Jailbreaking and why I'm not doing it, Android Vs Apple-everyone wins

by Peter Marus
     The tech world is all a flutter with the ruling of the US government that allows people to “jailbreak” their cellular phones.  What that means is that one can put third party software on it to “free” the phone from any restrictions a manufacturer or carrier put in it.  In short it’s the whole “you own the hardware, do what you want with it.”  
     A little background:  In the US there is a major piece of legislature called the “Digital Millennium Copyright Act”, which is an act that protects computer, software, and any media company from piracy and anything that could be malicious or just plain bad.  In theory it isn’t that bad, it helps keep bad knock-offs off the market that can cause harm.  It helps keep malicious apps and software from causing chaos and financial problems to the victims.  Sounds all well and good, doesn’t it?  Problem is that it was written pretty vague.  This is where the Government comes in to help focus the act.  They pretty much say what is and what isn’t considered protected under the act.  This goes on every three years but should be yearly to tell you the truth.  Technology moves at such a clip, it the evolution causes problems.  Then again this stuff keeps the lawyer industry going.  
     Some of the things they have ruled on what is “fair use” of copyrighted material, How far a company can go with “copyright protection”, and for the most part, look at all the “split hairs” and cracks in the act.  This time, the right to do what you want with an cell phone came up.  For years people have hacked (or “jailbroken”) their phones so they can do things the manufacturers didn’t intend them to do.  the iPhone is the biggest target since it’s the most restricted.  Once it is “jailbroken” one can put apps not approved by Apple on the phone, they can unlock it so the phone can be used on T-Mobile, and they can also customize the software on it.  This has happened since the phone came out, but now it’s officially legal to do this.  Android OS phones can be “jailbroken” or “rooted” as well, and it is often done, but it’s not a big issue since the OS is for the most part open source anyway.  
     Apple now can’t really do anything to stop people from jailbreaking their phones. The only thing they can do is warn that doing so opens themselves to unstable software, potential malicious attacks on their information, and it violates the warranty of the phone.  
     I am a little tempted to do this, but there is a major problem I have.  Unlike the Android phones, where the process is an app you download and do the rooting locally, the most popular and I think only effective way to do this on an iPhone is through a website (I will not mention them here, seems shady).  I have a big issue with this.  It involves going to this site via the web browser on the phone, and letting the site’s web app do the work over the net.  I don’t trust having someone’s server access my phone via an expolit that gives them full access to my stuff.  It just seems shady, and I don’t like that it seems so simple for anyone to do it.  For all anyone knows, this group could be collecting gigs of data and are going to use it for identity theft, hijacking of a phone to send spam out of, or just destroy the cell network and phones for fun.  The amount of people apparently doing this scares the hell out of me, and seems like a formula for disaster.
     Don’t get me wrong, some of Apple/AT&T’s restrictions suck.  I wish I could use my phone as a WiFi hotspot, use FaceTime over the cell network, and have a little more access to customize my phone.  But at the same time, when I go into the App Store, I don't’ have to worry about the app screwing up my phone, or having my info stolen, or just being bombarded by garbage/spam apps when I search for something particular.  I like the walled community that is Apple and the App Store.  
     Google’s approach-where it’s an open platform where anyone can develop has it’s merits as well.  Innovation comes through freedom, but said freedom can lead to the things I just described I don’t worry about with Apple.  In a perfect world, there would be a hybrid of both:  no restrictions of what can be done, but a screening process that curates and ensures whoever uses that software isn’t a potential victim to something harmful.  One other problem i have with Google, is that they allow providers to put “bloatware” or “crapware” on the phone-much like how Dell and HP put crap on their Windows computers.  It’s stuff that is either impossible to take off or relly hard to get rid of.  It also tends to be trials of software that slows down the phone, or their version of major apps on the Android (music player, email system, etc.) that is limited and not as good as the regular Android app.  With Apple, I know what I am getting and I know it works.
     When it comes to mobile devices (phones, tablets, and things of that ilk), it’s still the wild west.  Everyone is still figuring things out.  So far Apple and Google are going in the right direction, but slightly different paths.   I'm not saying one’s better than the other-i’ve had both and enjoyed both.  I have an iPhone now because of the user experience, and I have all Apple products.   Android products are getting better and better for the most part.  Only thing is that, like the PC, there are so many different products running chopped-up, hacked-up versions of the OS, or the current OS burdened by crapware that hurts performance.