Want to jailbreak your iPhone 5, iPhone 4S or iPhone 4 and install unauthorised apps? It's risky, but if you're sure, here's how to jailbreak an iPhone - including how to jailbreak an iPhone in iOS 6.1.3. We also have a brief update on the iOS 7 jailbreak, if you've updated to the latest OS but want to get your jailbreak back.
Jailbreaking your iPhone is a risky process that we can't wholeheartedly recommend, but it remains popular among those who wish to install unofficial apps on the phone. What is jailbreaking? In essence it means bypassing the locks put in place by Apple, and thus gaining access to a large number of apps that Apple hasn't authorised.
How to jailbreak iOS 7: An update
First, a quick update. If you want to know how to jailbreak iOS 7, or when the iOS 7 jailbreak will be ready, we have to tell you that right now you can't, since the researchers at evasi0n are still working out a way to deal with the new security measures in iOS 7 (not to mention the added difficulties in working with the iPhone 5s).
If you want to keep track of when the iOS 7 jailbreak is ready, two useful options are following @evad3rs on Twitter (that's the account used by evasi0n), and checking out the jailbreaking section on Reddit.
In the mean time, look out for scammers. Lots of unscrupulous companies and individuals have claimed that they've cracked iOS 7, and offer to give you the jailbreak for a sum of money - often $50. We're not aware of a successful jailbreak of iOS 7, and evasi0n would be more likely to give away the files for free. (You'd have to buy any unofficial apps on Cydia, though.)
How to jailbreak an iPhone: A warning
Some of these unofficial apps are pretty tempting, and may offer features you'd never otherwise be able to access; blocking a phone number on an iPhone, for instance, wasn't possible officially until iOS 7 launched, but an app on Cydia (where you can download apps for jailbroken iPhones and iPads) let you do it easily.
How to jailbreak an iPhone: Cydia is the app that lets you browse and download further unofficial apps
So why doesn't everyone jailbreak? Well, for one thing it's by no means straightforward, as we'll see shortly. Jailbreaking is also legally ambiguous, risky, and prone to void any warranties you have with Apple. We advise you to think long and hard before going ahead with the jailbreaking process.
Apple itself offers advice on the subject of jailbreaking (although you may feel that the company is biased in this respect, since it wants to continue getting its cut of the revenue from official app sales). In this tech note Apple suggests that jailbreaking your iOS device may lead to security vulnerabilities, instability, shortened battery life, unreliability, disruption of services and inability to apply future software updates. It may result in Apple denying service for your device.
Nonetheless, I've been jailbreaking iOS devices for years and have not encountered these issues. But once I've jailbroken such a device, I understand that I should expect no help from Apple if it causes me trouble in the future. With choice comes responsibility.
How to jailbreak an iPhone: tethered and untethered jailbreaking
Jailbreaking has been in a largely dormant state since the release of iOS 6. In that version of the mobile operating system, Apple closed many of the avenues that had once been used to crack iOS open.
Tethered jailbreaks had been developed for iOS 6, but they were clumsy. Such jailbreaks require you to attach your iOS device to your computer and run an application to jailbreak it. If you later power off the device and then restart it, the jailbreak is wiped out, and you have to repeat the entire process.
What prospective jailbreakers wanted was an untethered method, where the hack would remain in effect even after the device was switched off and on again.
That untethered jailbreak arrived in the form of evasi0n, a jailbreaking tool for iOS 6 up to iOS 6.1.2. (If you've updated to iOS 6.1.3 or later, you won't be able to use this method to jailbreak your iPhone - and if you update after this process you will lose your jailbreak. See below for alternatives.) Like jailbreaks before it, evasi0n doesn't unlock an iPhone (which would allow you to use the device with multiple carriers). Rather, it simply allows you to install third-party apps not approved by Apple via the Cydia store we mentioned earlier.
How to jailbreak an iPhone: Breaking it down
To begin the jailbreaking process, back up your device. You do this by plugging it into your computer, launching iTunes, and choosing File > Devices > Back Up. This helps ensure that any data you have on your device can be later restored.
Before jailbreaking, be sure to back up your data
Now download a copy of evasi0n from one of the mirror sites listed on the evasi0n site (it's a download of just over 10MB). Double-click the .dmg file to decompress it and an evasi0n window will appear on your desktop. Drag the evasi0n application out of the window to the desktop and launch it.
Connect your iOS device and click the Jailbreak button. evasi0n will retrieve some information from your device. The device will then reboot and prepare itself for the jailbreak. Don't do anything with your device during this stage.
evasi0n begins its work
evasi0n will now install Cydia - the application that provides access to third-party apps - on your device. When instructed to by evasi0n, unlock your device by pressing the Home button and swiping the Slide to Unlock switch to the right. You should see a new Jailbreak icon on your Home screen. Tap it and evasi0n will carry on with the final stage of the jailbreak. You can now quit evasi0n by clicking the Exit button.
Don't touch your device until evasi0n tells you to
Your device will reboot, briefly display the evasi0n screen, show the Apple logo, and then show the evasi0n screen again, which details the progress of the jailbreak installation. Finally, your device is ready for you to use in the normal way.
The one difference you'll see is a Cydia icon on the home screen. Tap it and Cydia launches, prepares its file system, and then quits. To then use Cydia as intended, tap its icon once again, choose your user type (User, Hacker, or Developer), tap Done, and the Cydia interface loads.
The version of Cydia you're using may need updating; older versions of Cydia may not support Cydia's newer third-party apps. To do that, tap the Changes icon at the bottom of the screen and then tap Refresh in the top left corner. If any updates are available (as evidenced by green check marks) tap the Update button in the top-right corner of the display. Cydia will download the latest updates and reboot the device.
What you choose to install is entirely up to you. Some people choose to install OpenSSH so that they can remotely access the device's file system via a standard FTP client. However, if you enable this feature, be sure to change your device's root password from the default "alpine," which is used by all iOS devices. Fail to do so and others around you could hack into your device. To learn how to change the password, tap the Root Password How-To link on Cydia's About screen.
Cydia is now in the house
How to jailbreak an iPhone in iOS 6.1.3 and later
Finally, what about iOS 6.1.3 and iOS 6.1.4? The Evasi0n method was disabled in the iOS 6.1.3 update, as we mentioned earlier, so if you've kept updating to the latest version of iOS you may not be able to use Evasi0n at all.
There are exceptions, however. On older devices - namely those with an A4 processor, including the iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS - it's possible to set up a tethered jailbreak of iOS 6.1.3 using a tool called Redsn0w. That means, remember, that powering down your iPhone will remove the jailbreak. For more info on Evasi0n in iOS 6.1.3 and later, check these FAQs.
You can usually depend on the jailbreaking community to find ways around Apple's defences, and there are already some methods out there promising to let you jailbreak an iPhone in iOS 6.1.3, but we are not currently aware of any verified and reliable methods. Many are scams. A reader got in touch to warn that a iOS 6.1.3 jailbreak we previously mentioned in this article (with the caveat, admittedly, that we couldn't vouch for its reliability) was just such a scam, for which we apologise wholeheartedly.
It's understood that the team behind Evasi0n aren't working on a jailbreak tool for iOS 6.1.3, in fact, and are instead looking ahead to iOS 7, so the likeliest way you can jailbreak an iPhone that's been updated to iOS 6.1.3 is to hold tight until the iOS 7 launch.
If you've found a reliable iOS 6.1.3 jailbreak tool, of course, get in touch and let us know how things went, and whether you'd recommend it. Alternatively, feel free to suggest your own favoured jailbreaking tools in the comments below.