The term “jailbreak” has worked its way into urban vernacular, but the definition has become somewhat lost in translation. In short, to “jailbreak,” or “root” a device is to gain the ability to modify protected system files. The process was dubbed “jailbreaking” shortly after the release of the original iPhone, as many consumers felt that the core processes of the phone were locked away. When Android hit the consumer market, similar steps were taken to gain complete control over the phone’s operating system, though this time, the term “root” was used which was an homage to the underlying Linux platform.
There are several benefits to “rooting”, “jailbreaking”, or “unlocking” a phone, the most well-known of which is the ability to install programs, free of manufacturer restrictions. The drawbacks, however, can be severe. The process to unlock a phone often relies on command line arguments, passed from a computer to the phone while it’s in a particular state. These processes can be daunting for many, and even if executed perfectly, run the risk of potentially breaking your phone’s operating system, effectively turning your fancy new device into an expensive paperweight (this is called “bricking.”) Additionally, many warranties are voided once a phone has been unlocked, which means you can no longer return the now-defunct piece of hardware.
As with any risky endeavor, it’s a matter of personal preference. Should someone decide they want to unlock their phone, there are likely numerous guides available online to assist with almost any model.
Richard Clark, CIO Remote Engineer