Apple Owes the Jailbreak Community an Apology

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

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.


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:


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]