Apple Owes the Jailbreak Community an Apology

By , Jun 10, 2011

The relationship between Apple and the jailbreak community has always been an interesting one. Ever since the first, public iPhone jailbreak was displayed in 2007, Apple and jailbreakers have been fighting in a secret, underground war. Fast forward to 2011, and you can do a lot more with a jailbroken iPhone than just add custom ringtones.

On Monday, Apple unveiled iOS 5. Version 5 was called Apple’s most “revolutionary” iOS release to date. Oddly enough, many features that have been in the jailbreak community for years are now present in iOS 5. In fact, Apple has borrowed (some would say stolen) ideas from jailbreak developers for years, and iOS 5 is the most current, blatant example.

Apple, you owe the jailbreak community an apology.

Grass is Greener

For years, Apple has been doing everything it can to keep jailbreakers at bay. Exploit after exploit is uncovered by jailbreak devs, and patch after patch is applied by Apple in an attempt to keep iOS “safe” and “secure.”

If jailbreaking is so bad to Apple, than the folks at Cupertino aren’t as saintly as we all thought. iOS 5 proves that fact more than any other software release from Apple in history.

Now, before I continue, it’s important to be fair. All companies get inspired by looking at their competition. Apple has borrowed ideas from its competitors for years in both the desktop and mobile space.

The only difference in this situation is that Apple goes so far out of its way to stop jailbreaking. If you walk into an Apple store with a jailbroken iPhone, don’t expect any sort of customer service for your device. Apple retail Wi-Fi networks will even re-route the Cydia homepage to Apple.com.

Now, back to iOS 5. If you’re a jailbreaker and you watched Scott Forstall demo iOS 5 at the WWDC keynote on Monday, you were probably scratching your head. Haven’t we seen most of these features before? O, right… Cydia.

Notifications

The most obvious example of Apple copying the jailbreak community is the introduction of Notification Center. A new method of notifications has been something that iOS has needed desperately for years, and the jailbreak community has been offering alternative systems for a long time.

In terms of notifications, Apple took a shot at three major jailbreak players: LockInfo, IntelliScreen, and Notified. Apple recently hired the developer of MobileNotifier (another cool notifications replacement in Cydia), and that tweak’s design can be seen in iOS 5 as well.

Here’s Apple’s new system of notifications:

Notification Center

Incoming Push Notifications

Lockscreen View

Here’s what LockInfo, Notified and MobileNotifier look like:

LockInfo

Notified Pro with GriP style

MobileNotifier Lockscreen View

Looks pretty similar to me. If you don’t want to say that Apple ripped these tweaks off, you have to at least admit that Cupertino was inspired by these jailbreak offerings.

Interestingly, the developer behind LockInfo, David Ashman, doesn’t feel intimidated by Apple’s Notification Center. He sat down with our friends at TiPB to share his feelings about Apple’s approach and the future of LockInfo.

Hopefully, the people behind IntelliScreen and Notified feel the same way as David and will continue to develop and maintain their tweaks.

It will be interesting to see how Notification Center changes in light of the recent Apple hire of Peter Hajas. I wouldn’t be surprised if MobileNotifier makes a little bit more of a footprint in future iOS 5 updates.

Everything Else

With the introduction of iCloud, EvilPenguin’s iBye app is left out in the cold. iBye has been allowing jailbreakers to upload and sync content from their iPhone (apps, calendars, photos, email, etc.), but the developer behind EvilPenguin, James Emrich, feels as though iCloud has replaced the need for his app.

A very prominent jailbreak developer, Ryan Petrich, told TUAW how he feels about Apple’s advancements in iOS 5,

“With iOS 5, Apple continues the trend of cloning features and designs pioneered by myself and others into the OS itself. It is great to see these enhancements become available to millions of users, but it affects the ability of others to innovate on the platform independently of Apple.”

Ryan created an extension called Rich Text and made it available in Cydia about a month ago. Apple introduced rich text email editing in iOS 5, and Ryan’s tweak has now become obsolete. He does make a very spot-on point about how Apple can tend to stifle the innovation of third party developers (especially in the jailbreak community) with releases like iOS 5.

Is Apple to blame for implementing features that have already been available in Cydia? I agree with Chris White of TUAW when he says that, “many JB apps are themselves inspired by apps and designs from other phone platforms.” But that doesn’t make Apple copying jailbreak devs any easier to accept.

The updates to the Camera app in iOS 5 seem to be inspired from jailbreak tweaks like FastSnap and CameraButtons. The new Wi-Fi sync feature in iOS 5 is a blatant clone of the already-existing Wi-Fi Sync in Cydia. The additions to the Photo app look a whole like like PhotoAlbums+. When Personal Hotspot got added to the iPhone, MyWi and PdaNet were already well-established apps with the same functionality in Cydia.

There’s no telling how long this cat-and-mouse game between Apple and the jailbreak community will continue. I don’t believe the conspiracy that iOS 5 will kill jailbreaking, and I don’t think that current jailbreakers will stop jailbreaking when iOS 5 is made available to the public. There may be a few casualties, but jailbreakers are persistent and resilient. Apple is going to have to do a lot more to keep the jailbreak community quiet.

I don’t ever expect Steve Jobs to get onstage and thank jailbreakers. That’s just not going to happen. Jailbreakers will always be one step ahead of Apple in terms of innovation, but Apple will always get the glory. That’s the vicious cycle of it all.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

[image via AppAdvice]

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  • http://senseiphone.com/ SenseiPhone

    What about CameraButtons cydia tweak?
    What about DisplayOut cydia tweak?
    What about FaceBreak cydia tweak?

    Most of concept from those apps (and much more) applied into iOS 5 as well.

    Whats your thought?

  • http://www.claro.com.hn/Movil/Celulares/Apple.aspx Smartphone Honduras

    this is the apple’s way to thank the jb community, and the jb developers should be proud :)

  • Thomas

    I would be proud to have made a app in the past that apple is finally putting in to its ios. To me the only reason I jailbreak is for those simple tweaks, i dont pirate anything. I just like the freedom to choose how i want my device to run, i.e. themes, system sounds, lockinfo. What apple should focus on is installous and dTunes thats were the pirated junk is at, not all jailbreakers use their device to get copyrighted materials for free

  • ghost

    i guess the term hackers is loosed to much now days but for apple to just take what you have many hours writing and testing is a 50/50 split for me its great that so many non jb people will get a look at what jb is all about through apples eyes and maybe since people will see that this is old tech for those who jailbreak MAYBE this will bring more to the jb community good luck to all jbs who keep making the iphone great and who knows maybe in the furture apple will join the two forces and have a great phone thanks for hearing me out ghostwithaa60cal

  • Forceusr

    I’ve owned and jailbroken every iteration of the iPhone and will probably continue to do so as the phone evolves. I respect the jailbreaking community and it’s developers.

    That said, the jailbreak devs that “borrowed” or were “inspired” by features on other platforms have no right to be angry at Apple for doing the same. Who’s to say that Apple wasn’t inspired by another platform rather than a jailbreak developer. When you’re “borrowing” an idea from someone else, can you really be upset when someone else “borrows” it from you? Seems hypocritical.

    To be fair, some of these new features are just common sense. Rich text in email? Not really a groundbreaking concept. To me, it’s a given that it would eventually make it to the iPhone, especially as people (myself included) begin to use their mobile devices more and more as primary communications devices. I hardly ever email from my desktop any more, preferring to do it from my phone.

    Wireless syncing? People have been clamoring for it since before Greg Hughes brought it to Cydia, and again, it’s available on other platforms already. And, regarding the similarity in Greg’s WiFi Sync icon and Apple’s? The spinning arrows for syncing have been done by Apple previously (did Greg “borrow” that from Apple?) and the WiFi bars are a fairly universal image (also being present in the iPhone UI since the original iPhone.) Funny how no one complained about Greg using those two images in his icon, but now that Apple’s using it on a wider scale, everyone’s in an uproar.

    I’m an Apple fan, but not a fanboy. I’m also a fan of logic and fairness and some of these arguments regarding Apple ripping off the JB community seem to be lacking in one or the other.

  • saidismeenk

    forceusr, is this a serieus responds? Because your argument about jb community is lacking big time.

    • Forceusr

      Yes, it’s a /serious response./ Lacking? How? Because I didn’t attack “Big Bad Apple?”

      • saidismeenk

        No more the basic ideas of why you should jailbreak? For sample to have freedom on your devices.

        After that the basic of having an online community like cydia who is building an beautifull businessmodel.

        Then how apple is acting like a angry gorilla and think they are the lord of the ring. To piggyback developers unacceptable. If they have 70 billion in money for reserver they should ally the jailbreak and help us do the impossible. Instead of wasting money on laywers and losing court battle each time. ;)

        Mabye next time do your dodiling instead of coming online and trying to be switserland bs.

  • Forceusr

    @Saidismeenk

    My original statement said nothing to the effect of “jailbreaking should go away.” If you had read it, you would have noticed that I’ve jailbroken every iPhone I’ve owned. I’ll continue to do so.

    Your whole argument centers around the belief that the apps the jailbreak devs wrote and released on Cydia were their unique ideas and originated with them. I say that’s not necessarily true, and based on that, feel the jailbreak devs aren’t entitled to be angry.

    Rarely, if ever, does Apple introduce a product or feature quickly. They analyze and tweak it to death before it’s released. The original iPhone was in development for years before release. So, to think that Apple decided to address rich text in email or syncing wirelessly only after those tweaks appeared in Cydia is laughable. Give them more credit than that.

  • iPad2JB

    IMO, all Apple is doing here is recognising the demand for features like photo album creation, wifi syncing, better notifications and rich text editing and making it widely, officially and legitimately available. If there is such a high demand for these features then why wouldn’t they provide them? Would you prefer Apple to leave important and genuinely useful features like this out of iOS so that people are forced to jailbreak to get them? Also, if people no longer need to jailbreak for extra features, all that’s left is the ability to pirate apps and a lot of people wouldn’t bother just for that, especially as it would be seen as less acceptable than jailbreaking currently is. This would then lead to increased sales on the App Store, Which can only be a good thing for Apple. And who’s to say that the Cydia developers should be able to keep their ideas and Apple shouldn’t be allowed to copy them? From Apple’s perspective they’re using their devices illegitimately and don’t have any rights to the software they develop. As for jailbreaking’s survival, I jailbroke to get extra features that weren’t currently available in iOS, so for now iOS 5 is all I will need, but as previously said, jailbreakers will stay one step ahead of iOS’ features and doubtless will keep turning out more that keep making jailbreaking worthwhile.

  • Darryl

    This article is interesting. It brings to mind two images. One, there will be copyright lawsuits or apple paid these guys and after the update is released, the people who host all these jail broken apps will drop off the face of the earth.

  • Filthy Apple

    I’ve just lost loads of stuff on My Iphone because a jailbreak messed up and My stuff was not automatically backed up.. and lol I do a search and I see that auto backup will arive in ios 5!!! what a joke, that should have been there at the beginning :P and deleting everything on a phone just so You can fix it because of a jailbreak problem is a joke, what would a photo do.. I wish Apple were not so greedy and not create a reason to have to jailbreak, haven’t we paid enough at the start when we thought we were going to own the phone??? LOL it’s pretty much paying 560 euro so Apple can make it easier to advertise their products…

  • Vigo

    Great article all around and it brings the obviousness of just how many features they “borrowed” from the JB community. And I’m right there with you, Alex – I don’t expect Steve Jobs to get onstage and thank jailbreakers either.

  • Kas

    you know if Apple decides to use everyjailbreaking tweak and theme there is and all the other good stuff we won’t need jailbreaking for anything except free fruit ninja and etc.

  • BigBen93

    Jailbroken phones are a support nightmare. There is nothing wrong with Apple making it hard to do.

  • http://cydia.com Justin

    Jail break

  • http://cydia.com Justin

    Jail break is the best