iPhone 3GS is jailbreakable. Does it matter?

The new phone is susceptible to the same jailbreak and unlock techniques used on earlier iPhone models.

The hack masters at the iPhone Dev Team earlier today announced the iPhone 3GS is officially jailbreakable. The news comes less than a week after Apple released the latest iteration of its wonder gadget featuring new toys like video capability and a digital compass. The Dev Team said that while the iPhone 3GS jailbreak poses some extra technical difficulties, the new phone is susceptible to the same jailbreak and unlock techniques used on earlier iPhone models.

Has Apple Addressed the Issues?

But does jailbreaking the iPhone matter anymore? PC World's David Murphy last month wondered just that, and pointed out that the iPhone 3GS's expanded feature list -- including tethering, video capture, and copy-and-paste -- eliminates a lot of good reasons to jailbreak your iPhone. Of course, there's one big, unsolvable problem that Apple hasn't dealt with yet: Overwhelming customer dissatisfaction with AT&T, the iPhone's exclusive U.S. carrier. But is switching carriers a good enough reason to risk your device warranty with a software jailbreak? It just might be.

Jailbreak Interest

Over the last 30 days, the top ten iPhone-related Google searches in the U.S. do not include any references to jailbreaking. However, the United States is one of the top ten countries in the world searching for the keywords "iPhone" and "jailbreak." Not only that, the U.S. is one of only three English-speaking countries looking for those terms. Breaking it down even further, Google's own data say that of the top ten cities in the world searching for "iPhone" and "jailbreak," eight of those urban centers are American. So while a majority of American iPhone searches are not about jailbreaking, significant numbers of people in the U.S. are searching for information about iPhone jailbreaking.

U.S.-sourced site traffic for popular jailbreak destinations is also a mixed bag. The Dev Team's blog -- one of the major sources for jailbreak news -- gets less than 5000 visits monthly, according to metrics firm Quantcast. Meanwhile, traffic headed to Cydia, a popular repository for unofficial iPhone apps, doesn't even register enough traffic to be worthy of tracking.

However, Quantcast does rate BigBoss, an iPhone jailbreaking tutorial and reference site, as one of the 500 most popular Websites in the U.S., with 2.5 million U.S.-based page views per month.

Jailbreaking Alive and Well?

It's hard to know for sure if the popularity of rogue iPhones is waning, but iPhone jailbreaking definitely has potential for growth, especially among porn fans. Yesterday, a mini-saga unfolded over Hottest Girls -- the first Apple-sanctioned iPhone application to contain nudity. In true iTunes App Store style, Hottest Girls was available, and then reports came out that the app was pulled. Then the app's creator said they were the ones who pulled it. Not to be outdone, Apple came back to take credit for pulling the app, saying it did so because the app contained nudity. At the time of this writing, Hottest Girls is no longer available in the App Store.

What's strange about the Hottest Girls fiasco is that issues like this were supposed to be solved by Apple's new age appropriate rating system for iPhone apps.

But instead of improving access to a wider range of apps, Apple might be making things worse.

This morning, iPhone developer Travis Yates dropped me a line to let me know Apple is no longer allowing Yates to send updates to his Blackjack card counting iPhone application. The Blackjack app is still available on iTunes, but why would Yates want to improve or update his product if the new versions are banned from App Store?

Yates's Blackjack app made headlines earlier this year when it was discovered the program was being used by gamblers to count cards on casino floors -- counting cards in a casino with the help of an automated device is illegal. Since Yates's app was used for illegal activity, it's possible Apple decided the program was unfit for iTunes. At the time of this writing, Apple has not removed the older version of the card counting app from the iTunes App Store.

But you know, I guess jailbreaking has a guaranteed future after all. Well, at least among AT&T haters, porn fans, and gambling addicts it does.

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Ian Paul

PC World (US online)
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