Applesauce: All Things Apple
February 23, 2013

Applesauce Special: Jailbreaking (Part 2)

Part 2 in a series. Read the first part here.

I’ve rolled my own iPhone experience out of Auxo, BlurriedNCBackground, IntelliScreenX, Zephyr and a few others, and so far life is great… about 50 percent of the time.

The other 50 percent, I’m wrestling with my phone, waiting on it to respring or wondering why random icons have shown up on my home screen or in my settings app. In the weeks since I’ve been using a jailbroken iPhone 5, I’ve learned to be careful when asking it to do too much.

It’s willing to do almost anything for me, but it’s only capable of doing a few things at a time…a very important difference to note.

Parenthetically, isn’t this also the divide between Android and iOS? There’s so little that Android doesn’t want to do for you, but there’s only so much it’s actually capable of doing well.

Were I, for instance, to get in my car and shoot of a quick text or two before I get moving, adjust my screen brightness (more on that in a second), then swipe over a few apps to pick some music, my iPhone will almost certainly give up the ghost right then and there, resetting itself into “Safe Mode.” I’ve got the option to do all these things, but if I actually ask my phone to do them, it quickly becomes overwhelmed.

Elsewhere in the list of faults: my screen brightness suddenly began slowly slipping all the way down to its dimmest setting, unexplainably. I’m not sure which mod is responsible for causing this quirk, or if it’s something that simply happens with jailbreaking. But I do know I have to turn off the automatic setting and adjust it manually, in Notification Center, depending on the amount of ambient light.

Universal apps I purchase from my iPad do not automatically download to my iPhone anymore. These apps usually queue up somewhere in the cloud until I manually download one from the App Store to my iPhone. Then they all magically appear, as if they’ve just been waiting for me to call them home.

Finally, my battery life sucks. It’s ridiculous. I’ve reinstalled mods, removed and reinstalled them, restarted my phone…everything shy of restoring and jailbreaking all over again. And it’s not due to screen brightness. I always have it set just below a comfortable level to protect battery life. For whatever reason, and I can’t tell what that reason is, jailbreaking has destroyed my battery life, sometimes leaving me with 20 percent somewhere in the middle of the afternoon, even if the phone’s just been mostly sitting at my side all day. In its pure and unmolested state, I can normally go a day and a half on a single charge.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this jailbreaking thing in recent weeks.

From everything I’ve seen, with every jailbreak I’ve ever committed, the level of inconvenience totally negates any amount of convenience gained. I love being able to see all sorts of pertinent information from my lock screen, and get a lot of value out of it. Yet, I can only take advantage of it if the phone hasn’t died from low battery life or put itself into Safe Mode, which essentially takes it back to its pure state. There have been times in the recent weeks where I simply didn’t have the time right then and there to respring my phone to get all these features back.

It also should have been telling to me that IntelliScreenX offers a quick option for respringing right there on the lock screen.

It’s in the nature of hackers to constantly fiddle with their creations and their gadgets in order to keep them running just right. Just as early automobiles needed to be retuned before every journey, these hacked machines need constant care in order to work as they should. And in some ways, I think there’s something admirable and romantic about one’s willingness to make their relationship with their gadgets a fair one. They get plenty of benefit and convenience from their devices, but they also have to put in the time and work for it.

With many pieces of technology, we’re simply the consumer, the unappreciative taker who always wants more, claiming that the thing should always just work, circumstances be damned.

On the other hand, this iPhone is nothing more than an arrangement of inanimate materials, built to do nothing more than serve me without feelings or human emotions. It’s been designed to do exactly what I want of it, and in its original state, it does this very well.

In nearly all instances, it truly does “just work.”

At one point in my jailbreaking experience, I began to feel quite guilty about my expectations, from not only my iPhone but from every gadget I own. I’ve always praised Apple for making products that simply “just work” in all circumstances. Sure, you’ll never see Apple on the “bleeding edge” of technology. They waited to bring 3G and LTE to their iPhones, and those phones without these new radios were mocked for being too slow. There are plenty of cool things to be done with NFC, and yet Apple has so far chosen to stay far away from this tech. Apple will never be the first company to anything…unless they invented it themselves. (I’m looking at you, Thunderbolt.)

Apple will never win any competition judged purely on a spec sheet. But where they nearly always succeed is in making reliable, rock-steady and simple-to-use devices.

But was I somehow wrong for just wanting my device to do all I asked of it without putting in my fair share of toil as well?

How arrogant, how ignorant of me to become upset when my jailbroken iPhone was no longer a dependable machine. I was worried that I had become spoiled, and that this expectation to always work properly may pervade throughout other parts of my life that it shouldn’t be. To take this thought to its extreme, I should never expect my relationship with my wife to simply “just work” at all times…it’s always going to require some upkeep. I can’t expect my drum set or my guitar to simply “just work” at all times…they need to be tuned, to have their heads and strings replaced from time to time. There’s a divide between these things I own, these tools, and the iPhone…and I was having trouble reconciling this divide.

While I gained an appreciation for those who are willing to get out of their phones exactly what they put into it, I also had to remind myself that I mustn’t humanize these devices; a corporation made them to sell me in exchange for money. Other than the fact that they were designed and assembled by humans, there’s little human about them.

I wanted to leave my phone jailbroken for a few weeks to get a fair idea of what this lifestyle is like. In these weeks, I’ve shown off my setup to friends, bragging about how easy it is to switch between applications, close applications, and scroll through my Twitter feed. On the other hand, my wife has grown tired of my cursing my iPhone every time it crumbles underneath the weight of one of my requests. My wife even asked me why I was bothering to jailbreak again, even after all the issues I’ve had in the past.

Will I leave my phone jailbroken? I’m not yet sure…I assume there will be some point where my phone resetting itself five times a day grows old, sending me to take it back to its original state. Yet, I don’t mind putting in a little extra work right now for the small convenience I get from a jailbroken iPhone. I will say, in conclusion, that at all times I feel as if I’m working without a net; as if at any moment, my phone could just turn into a brick, leaving me up a certain creek without means of propulsion.

I do feel comfortable, however suggesting a jailbreak to anyone with at least the level of technological prowess that I have…which is to say, anyone curious enough and who knows their way around Google.

Though the Evasi0n jailbreak was incredibly easy to carry out, it’s not yet a mainstream experiment to be carried out by the casual user.

I can say one thing for certain: those looking for a little variety in their lives should try jailbreaking. I never know how my phone will behave from day to day. Some days it works as I think it should, others it tries its best to just phone it in. (I know, terrible pun.)

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