Rock’s dead. We all know this. Saurik told us that the Rock developers cut corners and did things the wrong way. Still, Rock did do a few things right that would complement Cydia well.

The Real Experiences

Rock.app was a real experience. It was snappy and clean. It had a colorful and eye-friendly theme. Most importantly, it was usable during fetches and reloads. When Rock opened, here’s what happened: you view the home page, navigate a bit, while fetches occurred with a small unobtrusive status indicator. Once completed, a quick refresh interrupts you, then you’re good to go. You navigate to updates and the results are preloaded. The page loads quickly, if not instantly.

Switch to search. Type your query with no lag, and hit search. No spotlight-style search-as-you-type, just quick and functional. The five-star content reviews are in your search results. Find the app you want, click install, and a pleasantly clean animated confirm dialog appears. Confirm, and it retreats to a statusbar-type progress bar. You can keep browsing the store.

If it needs to respring or restart, you get the option of waiting until you exit. Installing multiple non-tweak apps is quick and painless. Exit the app, and a native iOS HUD dialog alerts you of a respring in dumbed-down terms. Then you wait, unlock the device, and everything is good.

Here’s the Cydia version: you open the app, and a loading dialog appears. You can’t do anything else, so you fidget and wait. Once complete, it processes direct fetches with a larger area of screen real estate while you can manage your apps. Once that finishes, a reload prevents you from doing anything for about a minute.

Then you head over to Changes, only to have it load changes, while you’re forced to wait. Once done, you view an update, and the page loads slowly, in sections, as ads appear and descriptions start to pop up. No uniform to app descriptions ; some stuff is in “more info” and others load a non-resizable external page rendered for desktop. No reviews.

Through a slightly lagging process you can queue up installations and keep browsing. Add more than two and Cydia might crash, leaving you trying to remember the list of downloads you tried to install. If you get to the confirm screen, it still might crash when you tap Install. And if you get to the install screen, you watch the progress in verbose-style scrolling terminal commands.

Once that’s done, Cydia reloads for a while before telling you you need to respring, restart, or just return to the store. Tapping the action button produces a lag for a moment, then completes your task. Going through all of that reminds you how Cydia is just a front-end for APT with an HTML homepage.

App Management

Rock offered its own unreliable mobile substrate alternative (Rock extensions) that few developers used, and even fewer kept in their code. But it also provided a way to manually disable mobile substrate extensions individually to help troubleshoot. This functionality is absent from Cydia, and now is only available deep in the SBSettings options.

Uninstalling apps from Rock was as seamless and integrated as installing apps, while in Cydia it’s as cumbersome and slow as its installations.

Account Management

Rock required an account. Using an automatic login feature, your purchases were always available and your installed list was always backed up to a server. By using multiple accounts, one could create standard installation profiles for installing the same list on multiple devices. Payment methods were implemented on their web-based server for secure storage. Then your licenses were stored in a viewable license manager.

Cydia allows you to connect with a Google or Facebook account to keep track of purchases, but does not provide a backup list. Payment methods can be saved for Amazon, but PayPal is a redirection to the website. Sometimes, purchase steps get stuck in endless loops if you don’t wait a few minutes for page loads, and then you need to start over from the app’s description.

Once you purchase and install, there’s no simple list of licenses, or even an apparent or browsable database. Instead, apps that you own no longer show a price tag. The purchases are stored in the method you used to connect with (Facebook or Google), but not viewable there either. In essence, once you buy something, it loses its distinction as a paid app and just becomes available.

Compatibility

Rock only had a handful of in-house Rock-only apps. Most third-party Cydia repos were not supported, and thus not viewable. The standard repos were displayed, but some packages required an installation from Cydia. Once installed, Rock could install updated versions of those packages, but still not browse the repos properly. But even without the ability to install or purchase packages slated for Cydia, Rock still offered a cleaner description page, a better change log, and user reviews. Another benefit was trial mode for packages with its license manager.

Cydia on the other hand handles everything (now even Rock apps). Everything. No trials, but still consistent.

How I Used Rock

I checked Rock first. Installed all updates, searched for packages, read reviews, and wrote down a list of stuff to install from Cydia. Then I loaded up Cydia, threw in a load of laundry, hit the updates button, made myself a drink, and returned to Cydia to install updates. I made sure I had something to do while Cydia worked. This was my multitasking experience.

Then usually one by one, I searched for and installed my list of packages. Resprings, reboots, and crashes, while I did quick tasks from my to-do list. Sometimes I would skip Cydia altogether and run APT via SSH in Terminal from my MacBook. Then I’d run Cydia to make sure installations went OK.

Conclusion

Rock was perfect for my technophobe friends who wanted jailbreak functionality. I still keep Cydia hidden on their devices so they don’t screw something up. But now I do all the work for them. I miss the features of Rock, and I hope Saurik gets some time to use Rock’s strengths to turn Cydia from a fancy APT front-end into the complete user-experience that made Rock great for jailbreak power-users and end-users alike.

What do you think?

  • William Douglas

    I personally liked Rock much better than Cydia as well. Wish they would have kept it and ditched Cydia, it’s too laggy and slow and would frequently crash on my iPhone

  • Shrike1978

    Why were people so in love with Rock? It was ugly, non-standard and did bad, bad things with a horribly implemented apt clone. I stopped using it after the second time it trashed my iOS installation. Most of the things you complain about in Cydia are there to keep it from breaking things. Some of them used to be more like Rock when Cydia was first released (on iOS 1.1.3, when I started using it), but were changed as problems arose.

    There are two ideas that it did get right. Backups, while I use a 3rd party app for backups (there are several), having it integrated into the package manager was nice for those who didn’t want or need quite as much control. The other feature that was fantastic was the license manager. Though I never purchased anything on Rock and can’t comment on it’s execution, the one thing that I actually dislike about Cydia is the lack of any unified way to track app purchases.

  • Jerome

    I couldn’t have wrote this review better myself. Cydia is horrible! It’s slow, cumbersome and ugly. Rock was cleaner, easier on the eyes, allowed for backups and browsing while downloading, etc etc etc. Cydia is basically monopolizing the jailbreak world. I can’t wait until someone else steps up and creates another ‘Rock’.

  • I do miss rock, if not for the speed alone. I know the implementation wasn’t totally up to security standards, but we’re jailbreaking anyway…plus iOS is so easy to restore if there did happen to be a problem. Personally, I never had any issues with Rock myself.

  • Josh

    I was extremely anti-rock at first because of all the incompatibility problems and harm it caused end users. Then I caved and installed Rock for MyWi back on 3.0. At the time, MyWi was not worth the trouble that Rock caused me.

    First, it was the cache eating storage space until there was none left and then it was the permissions errors that left the user partition unusable. On top of that, Rock extensions always found a way to conflict with MS extensions (since the idea/implementation was taken from Mobile Substrate) and they were created with the hopes that Rock would be the de facto APT front end.

    If Rock users didn’t have to depend on Saurik/MobileSubstrate/Cydia for anything essential, Cydia wouldn’t be needed and Intelliborn would be in control. All the apps that were Intelliborn made and exclusive to Rock already had thriving and functioning competitors in the Cydia Store (My3G=3G Unrestrictor, Tlert=biteSMS or iRealSMS).

    Rock was the tentpole of Intelliborn’s plan to monopolize and capitalize on the jailbreak scene. If they have no competition they can charge whatever they want; example is MyWi at $20. The few nice features like backups, trials, and better performance were overshadowed by limit 1 device per license and no return policy. I’m happy Rock is gone.

  • Completely agree. I was so disappointed to see Rock get bought out by Cydia.

  • c0ntr0l

    I loved rock but caused my restore my iPhone 3G a handful of times thank god shah blobs

  • ZombieKiller

    I used to not like Rock either but more and more I found myself going there before I checked Cydia.I would love to see Saurik fix the security issues with Rock, remove the dependencies on Rock Extensions, re brand Rock to replace Cydia. Let’s face it Rocks implementation and reviews bitch slaps Cydia silly.

  • Reianz

    I totally agree with you man. Sometimes paying through Cydia just lags, and it just forces me back to the front page of the App description. This is just so frustrating…I miss Rock!

  • Brian

    I agree 100% with the writer (Nick) of this article and agree 100% with the several reviewers that said the following…..
    ———————————————————————-
    William Douglas says: October 8, 2010 at 7:09 am
    I personally liked Rock much better than Cydia as well. Wish they would have kept it and ditched Cydia, it’s too laggy and slow and would frequently crash on my iPhone
    ——————————————————————–
    Jerome says: October 8, 2010 at 7:26 am
    I couldn’t have wrote this review better myself. Cydia is horrible! It’s slow, cumbersome and ugly. Rock was cleaner, easier on the eyes, allowed for backups and browsing while downloading, etc etc etc. Cydia is basically monopolizing the jailbreak world. I can’t wait until someone else steps up and creates another ‘Rock’.
    ——————————————————————
    Matthew says: October 8, 2010 at 8:18 am
    Completely agree. I was so disappointed to see Rock get bought out by Cydia.
    ——————————————————————
    ZombieKiller says: October 8, 2010 at 8:43 am
    I used to not like Rock either but more and more I found myself going there before I checked Cydia.I would love to see Saurik fix the security issues with Rock, remove the dependencies on Rock Extensions, re brand Rock to replace Cydia. Let’s face it Rocks implementation and reviews bitch slaps Cydia silly.
    ———————————————————
    Reply Reianz says: October 8, 2010 at 9:27 am
    I totally agree with you man. Sometimes paying through Cydia just lags, and it just forces me back to the front page of the App description. This is just so frustrating…I miss Rock!

  • Brian

    IMHO CYDIA has gotten worse and worse as each day passes.

    Additionally, I keep hearing lots of talk about how they are ‘fixing the issues with CYDIA’…..Yet in all this time……what have they done to fix the issues? Nothing that I can see. I remember one time they claimed to have fixed some stuff. I saw a few people saying CYDIA was better but most like me, saw no improvement and instead saw the issues getting worse by the day to the point they dont even want to open cydia unless you have hours to spare to deal with issues that may pop up and a large bottle of tums to deal with the ulcers cydia will give ….

    IMHO, they never really tried too hard to ‘work out the issues’ and now that they bought ROCK there is zero motivation for them to fix anything since cydia is now the only option people have. I take that back. Another option is to simply not unlock/jb and avoid cydia. I do love my unlocked/jb’d iDevices but as much as I like to be able to be unlocked/jb’d, the ‘issues’ that are constant just isnt worth it to me. No matter how much I love the unlock/jb, I refuse to spend 25% of my life/time dealing with this crap. I’ve been testing quite a few androids. Frankly, I have found several that I think blows the iphone out of the water and you dont have the hassles you have with iphone and unlocked/jb’d iphones.

    There is a very valid reason android based phone sales are skying higher and many iphone users are finally switching to android.

    Many are so in love with apple they will never admit there could be anything as good as the iphone and those people probably will never think otherwise. The smarter folk are keeping an open mind and are experiencing firsthand just how great some of these android based devices really are and will never go back to iphone ever again.

    Personally, I am sick of APPLE. I am also sick and tired of the ‘unlock/jb scene’….I will NOT be buying anymore APPLE products. Life will be far less stressful when I dont have a friggin phone take top priority over my life and lets face it….I dont know about the rest of yall, but my phone is quite important. If it is having ‘problems’ I MUST make fixing them a top priority as I cant be without my phone…..Im sick of having an iphone run my life when there are BETTER PHONES THEN IPHONE that will not run my life….

  • Wize

    I miss the user reviews in Rock so much. They are essential.

  • Vincent

    I was sad to see Rock bought out, but downright aggravated when it was updated to just say go to Cydia. I know there were propels with it, but truthfully Cydia.app itself sucks and Rock was a 1000x better app experience. Is there anything less iOS-like then waiting 5 minutes just for your app updates to load?

  • I am going to keep this short, as I’m on an iPhone.

    a) Improvements: people could not be more wrong that “since Rock was bought there is no incentive to improve”. In fact, it is only /since/ Rock was bought that there has been much attention on Cydia: there is nothing more demotivating than needless closed source competition to an open source project.

    b) Delay respring till close: bad idea. Cydia used to do this, and then learned better. Robs of dangerous corner cases that even lead to kernel panics in some situations.

    c) Speed and performance: this is a direct tradeoff of actually using APT. People assume it is orthogonal: that Rock’s speed and Cydia’s APT compatibility are somehow orthogonal, but they are directly tied together. We are always working on improving this, and I think people will (again, as they always are each major release) be happy with some of the improvemens we have made in the next release.

    d) User backups. This feature is being brought to Cydia.

    e) Seriously: why did you write this article? There is no information in here that is not already known, and almost all of it was response to by the FAQ in Cydia. I also thing people should be reading the comments on the ModMyi forum post on the subject, as I went through and answered virtually every question anyone has so ar had on this subject.

    f) User reviews: this was sometimes good, and sometimes bad. In general the people you most like in the community were most against having these. I frankly disagree that user reviews actually solve real problems that users have.

    g) Description pages: I am not in charge of these. Cydia is a web browser. Rock showed the exact same information in the exact same way as Cydia because Rock 2.0 was also just a web browser. If you don’t like the web pages you are seeing, complain to the repositories, not to me. I would have respected this article a lot more if you had not made this complaint, but as you had it is frankly impossible to take you very seriously.

    h) We are adding account license lists, but doing that before we have all of the Rock data 100% integrated would just cause insane confusion.

    Seriously: chill out, it’s just an app.

    • John

      I’d say the author was pretty even-handed in their review. The advantage of having something written out in one place like this is it’s a very readable summary of the issues that I think a lot of regular users are thinking about after Rock’s exit. I absolutely don’t see it as a slam on the talented, and no doubt overworked developers, rather more as an honest and straight-forward response to some of the issues with the overall user experience.
      I hope you’ll consider it constructive criticism, because the author isn’t alone in these feelings!

    • Spehss mahreen

      How about this: set rock back up, direct all the sales back to yourself, and put an “at your own risk” warning on it. People who are pissed at this will be pleased, people will be able to use rock’s advantages, and you’ll get all the money. Oh, and by the way; just saying that suggestions are stupid to all of the complaints doesn’t make the anger go away. Saying that reviews are a bad idea is downright despicable.

    • After going through (and deleting) all of my Gmail filters, I finally realized you replied to my post. I’m pretty psyched you actually took the time to respond to my article.

      Now that we’re deep into the Cydia-only phase, I have to admit that I like what I see. Most of the performance issues I was experiencing were improved with better hardware and newer versions of Cydia. My father organized an online computer technology based debate for HBR’s website, so for a while I was hearing nothing but elitist opinions from the hardware and software sides. I however believe that the two seem to grow together and aid in each other’s development.

      I have also read your articles detailing Telesphoreo, bringing the BSD subsystem to the iPhone, and the early stages of Cydia. Without kissing your ass, I was quite impressed by how well versed you are for a Computer Science oriented person, as well as how much thought went into developing the backbone for the jailbreak platform.

      I have no animosity towards Cydia. I was merely disappointed that such eye-candy as Rock had to come to an end.

      Now, as for your reply to my post, I’d like to say, “Seriously, chill out, it’s just an opinion post.”

      a) You were right. Cydia has improved tremendously. I have not experienced a queue-related crash in quite a long time. In fact, the entire queuing system for package installation works amazing, with fewer keypresses and more attention to detail.

      b) I can’t argue with this since I do not know much about the implementation of the post-installation respring. But I would like to know in advance if my installation requires a respring or reboot. I guess Rock merely delayed the inevitable.

      c) Yep, APT is only going to go as fast as an “apt-get update” takes. It must be a ton of work for you to optimize Cydia and iOS APT simultaneously. After reading up on your work, I realize you actually brought APT to the iPhone. I guess you put in more work than I can fathom.

      d) I like what I see so far. Plus, PKGBackup does it better than Rock ever did. When everything gets Dropbox integration, the world will be a better place. 🙂

      e) I wrote this article after getting out of class. I typed it up with my thumbs while leaning over a wall, facing the sun’s perch over Boston Harbor. The reason I wrote it was that I hoped you would bring some of the visual effects to Cydia. I acknowledge that I do not post my gripes in forums, and if I had I would know the reasons for my past qualms with Cydia. Alternatively, I had just began to write for this blog and knew it would garner quite a bit of attention.

      f) I agree with your stance of the duality of user reviews. However, it is pretty easy to discover the “ignorance factor” of reviewers. For example a current WiFi Sync review that said “Does not work on my iPad, terrible product, do not buy” would have a rather large ignorance factor, and would not affect my decision on whether or not to buy the product. However, I do notice that ModMyi employs ratings for Cydia packages. Perhaps developers should embed their corresponding rating on their page.

      g) I realize that now. The repos and devs are responsible for the page load issues. I do like that more pages are using the CSS styles and page elements in a more uniformed manner than previously done.

      Okay, okay, okay. It’s easier to complain about Cydia than the individual things I don’t like. It also seems rather hard to appeal to individual developers or repositories to create a unified page design template. So I will end it like this: As of today, Cydia is snappier and easier to use. On my A4 devices, it loads pretty quick. Many issues I had with Cydia were actually with repository performance. In reality, it’s a great app that I cannot live without.

  • Frank

    In this age of instant gratification Cydia’s appallingly long delays are pissing people off. Plain and simple.

  • Khoa Nguyen

    Thanks for the update Jay. You’re not on Twitter a lot so its nice to see some recent posts from you regarding Cydia. Kinda wish new Cydia had come out with limera1n though.

  • chris

    Not all iphone users are developers/hackers or whatever. I am in this category. while i know enough to jailbreak/unlock the iphone thats about it. So what I have seen and experienced is that Rock was quick and did not crash when loading repos – Cydia is way slower and always comes up with errors loading repos. If we started deleting sources to fix the load probs then we would not need Cydia.

  • Hardy

    I have just recently rejailbroken my iPhone 4. I had a problem with my phone and had to restore it and wait for the new jailbreak. Now that rock and cydia are 1 I haven’t seen a way to login and get all the old apps from rock that I purchused. Couldn’t find any answers on the web and was hoping some1 knows how to do this.

  • appletiser

    since coming back from a vacation in a remote location without net access I have 5 updates that need to be done via cydia. problem is errors with the sources that were fine only a week ago. I’ve seriously become even more pissed at the forced use of cydia since the dimise of rock, now to the point of I cannot be bothered with this slow lumbering bullshit any more to the point where becoming un-jailbroken is looking more and more appealing. fix please !!

    • appletiser

      btw, perfectly written article Nick, thanks

  • Chris

    All Jay did was make excuses as to why Cydia sucks. I was so pissed when Rock was bought. Now, more than ever. It has to be a planned event for me to open cydia and look for updates to my apps. I honestly have to plan like 15 min. For changes to load then maybe a crash or two.

    Not having user reviews leaves people open to getting a “bad” app. I know of at least 5 times where rocks user reviews helped me to not install an app that crashed a lot of peoples phones.

    Bottom line, Cydia sucks. I havn’t downloaded a new app in months because I cannot navigate through all the junk. Plus I don’t know if an app is for me without the reviews!

  • ih8cydia

    always when i open cydia i get random ” Cached Failure ” errors and it is waaay too slow on my 2g iTouch. I’m going to get a 4g and that won’t be a jailbroken one. All those tweaks have wasted a battery that is quite hard to fix

  • ss

    I read Jay’s comment. Jay your are no doubt very talented. But seriously…? When a firmware developer like me won’t upgrade OS now that rock is gone, and is seriously considering giving up on the jailbreak world because Cydia is lacking in features, there is something wrong. Cydia really needs the following:
    – restore capability: you shouldn’t have shutdown rock until Cydia had this…
    – user reviews: no excuses… Ok? This is the only way to filter the junk out.

    Without these two things users will not jb after an upgrade and users will not download new apps… two very important concepts to keep the user base, wouldn’t you say.

    Now, if you object to these basic concepts, then it is clear where the issue lies…

  • I agree with comment above, Rock should definitely have been kept for at least the restore from backup feature. I’ve used it numerous times in the past and it’s flawless. I probably added in 100+ different icons to a theme and have no way of retrieving them at the moment.

  • chris

    I agree with this whole review. I liked cydia because of their whole anti corporation anti establishment attitude. They have now become like microsoft and apple. Killing off better competition so we stuck with their rubbish substandard products. I do thank them for all their hardwork and i know it cant be easy and they must not have enough time in their days but im writing this after alot of patience and waiting a still no improvements in cydia.

    • Cydia’s not as bad as you make it out to be. Rock was made to sell three or four apps, while Cydia was made to expand the growth of jailbreak packages. If you wish to see major improvement in Cydia, you should probably restore your device and jailbreak it with the latest methods. You will probably notice substantial improvements.

      Cydia is sort of a monopoly, but since the legality of jailbreaking is still being questioned, I assume that many developers would be uneasy to jump into the market as a viable competitor. Call it a barrier to entry, if you will.

      I disagree with the “rubbish substandard” part. If you want some rubbish, download Icy and then tell me what you think about Cydia afterwards.

  • Argila

    Cydia is slower, reloads constantly, is slower and Rock NEVER gave trouble. Sorry to see it go.