Yesterday, I thought I would try an experiment: jailbreaking my iPad. I had everything backed up, so I wasn't worried about losing any data, and I was curious to see if the benefits were as good as all that acclaim jailbreaking propose. So, I thought I would give it a try.
I hadn't upgraded to iOS 3.2.2, so I used jailbreakme.com to start the jailbreaking process. It went flawlessly, and within a few minutes I was able to use the Cydia to start installing apps. That went great, and I can understand why so many people find it so easy to jailbreak their iOS device.
So what worked well? WinterBoard, which allows for some awesome visual effects. Particularly I liked the ability to wash out the app icons, so while they were still there, they were not so distracting from the wallpaper. That was awesome, and I would love to see a feature like that added to the iOS sometime in the future natively.
Categories worked well too, as the iPad does not yet have the love of iOS 4.0, and lacks this ability. You can also add more then 12 items to a folder, which is nice. Of course, for it to actually work in shrinking the apps displayed, you need to reboot the device. I'm not sure I like that, as it feels yet again like a Windows machine, and not anything like the Mac or Linux computers with which I generally work.
Now comes the clunky bits: installing apps from Cydia. Finding them was slightly frustrating, as searches were limited to the name of the app, and not what the app does. And for all the intents of the developers to have cool and sexy names for their apps, they just don't readily explain what the app actually does. So, I had to resort to either scrolling through apps by category (which becomes unwieldy the more apps that get developed), or use the Internet.
Once I find the app and choose to install it, It takes me to a "terminal" display, where it shows the installation, and then I generally have to restart either SpringBoard, or the device itself. Man, it was like working on a Windows machine all over again, which is what moving to a Mac was all about.
Then there was the instability of some of the apps, crucial apps that I wanted to have running but couldn't, because they crashed my iPad. I've NEVER crashed my iPad before, and yet jailbreaking managed to do it.
So, are there benefits to jailbreaking an iOS device? Sure! Categories and Winterboard were great. You can also install Google Voice, and a number of other apps that you can't get in the App Store through Apple. But is it worth it? I found the device less reliable once it was jailbroken, and while I'm sure a little more tweaking could have fixed the reliability, I don't have the time (or rather, I'm unwilling to devote the time to something that should just work).
So, I reverted my iPad back and upgraded to iOS 3.2.2, losing all the jailbreak changes I made. For me, at least, I'm OK using the standard Apple release of the iOS. For those of you who jailbreak, I salute you for your tenacity and devotion to tinkering, but it's just not for me. For those of you who are perhaps less technically inclined or have more important things on your plate than trying to tweak a hack, it may not be for you.