Saturday, March 27, 2010

iPhone Jailbait

The Problem

I, like many of my fellows, love my iPhone, but sometimes I just wish it was a bit more
convenient to use. For example, when in New York City or DC there are 10 million* wifi networks. When walking around, my iPhone pops up with a little notification every time I use an app that accesses the Internet:
Stop! I don't want to join your damn network!
* there are not really 10 million wifi networks, but there are a lot of them

To turn off these pop-ups I can either disable WiFi or Disable the Notifications. Either options requires me to go to Page 2 of my home screen, tap Settings, scroll to and WiFi, then tap to toggle Notifications to Off or toggle WiFi to Off.

The whole process is long and arduous. Especially when my brother's Android based phone has a toggle right on his home screen. This is just one example of the hoop-jumping iPhone users are subjected to by Apple. There are other examples, but I think we all get the point.

The Solution

JAILBREAK! Get that iPhone out of Apple's exclusive grip!

Jailbreaking your iPhone is a simple process. It does not damage your iPhone in any way, and is completely reversible. Think of it as a new case for your iPhone, you can try it out, and if you don't like it, take it off and you're back to normal.

Earlier this week I Jailbroke(?) my iPhone. I wanted to install a piece of software that would tackle a few specific problems. Turning Bluetooth or WiFi on and off to save battery, the ability to show a battery bar percentage (only available on the 3Gs) and a few other minor tweaks. Jailbreaking one's iPhone is the only viable solution.

The Breakout

As it turns out, Jailbreaking is even simpler than the last time I tried it (over a year ago). I downloaded a simple piece of software, ran it on my computer with my iPhone plugged in, and 15 minutes later the phone rebooted with my own custom boot screen:

Simple. Colorful. Apple-maddening, because it's not the "official" boot screen

I smiled to myself and began my new life with a Jailbroken iPhone. I was happy, for the moment...

Jailbreaking allows the iPhone to install Non-Apple-approved appls (that's a mouthful).

It installs Cydia, a gigantic hacker version of the app store. Users spend hours trolling the apps and checking all the things you can customize, but I was on a mission.

The first thing I did, was remove the bulky "AT&T" carrier name replacing it with "Crap," this was a bit of a debbie-downer but I fixed that later... I also made a few other tweaks. The battery percentage was a big one. I also installed SBSettings.

SBSettings comes in the form of a drop-down menu. It is always there, hidden at the top of your screen accessible without leaving a call or closing another app. It allows for the Toggling of WiFi (no more menu hoops), Bluetooth (no more draining battery), 3G (sometimes 3G service is buggy), and numerous others (SSH, Brightness adjust, etc).

SBSettings. Swipe the statue bar at the top and it drops down over whatever you are doing.
Touch the status bar again, and it disappears. It's always there... waiting...

Again, I was happy... for a while. I thought I had everything I wanted. I could see my battery percentage, knew knew the date and time at a glance, and when I wasn't using it, my Bluetooth was only a swipe away from Off.

The Madness

As it the week floated by, I came to realize the few trivial things I changed were great, but what about my SMS Tone? The iPhone comes with only six. There is no way to add a new tone (without Jailbreaking) and I had been using the only good one for 18 months! Unfortunately, so was everyone else...

I began to search for a way to alter the SMS Tone. I spent at least three hours on this endeavor finally having my own, custom SMS tone. FYI, I decided on the power up sound from Super Mario Bros. NES: the sound of little Mario becoming BIG Mario. Awesome, right?

Then, I said to myself, why not have a custom lock screen (the screen the iPhone shows when the phone is locked) I could have anything I want! THE POWER! The lock screen buttons, bars, text... everything can be customized!

Two hours later (@ 4AM) I had a customized lock screen with colorful sliders, custom text and a new wallpaper. I woke up the next morning and decided I didn't like any of the previous night's decisions.

Next, I thought, why not some fancy ringtones?! I can get any ringtone I want! This Cydia App Store has hundreds! Then, I could get a custom icon for the service level, replacing the boring lowercase "at&t." THEN, a custom background when the phone is NOT locked and then perhaps new icons, and THEN...

You get the idea.

The Conclusion

Today, exactly a week after Jailbreaking my iPhone, I am restoring it to factory settings. I spent this week with Jailbreak Madness only to realize, Jailbreaking is a waste of my time.

The first sign was when I hit the home button, and nothing happened for 3 or 4 seconds. The iPhone was starting to get bogged down running all these little tweaks. Next, was when I would spend an hour playing with settings, only to return the phone to how it had been at the beginning of the hour. My iPhone had become more than just a phone; more than a useful device; it had become an omnipresent distraction. A never-ending project of exploration into the various customizable interfaces, wallpapers, icons and sounds that a computer can replicate, but in the palm of my twitchy hand.

Today, I restored my iPhone and closed Pandora's box. Some things are better left under the regulation and control of Steve Jobs' minimalist regime.