Jailbreak or Unlock?

Nov 30, 2010 - 4 Comments

jailbreak or unlock If you’re new to the world of jailbreaking and unlocking the iPhone, you might be curious what the difference between an unlock and jailbreak is. Jailbreaking and unlocking are two very different things that are commonly confused by people who are new to the concepts, read on to better understand the differences between the two and to find out which you may want to use.

Note that I am referring to the iPhone in particular but this information is relevant for all other iOS hardware, including the iPod touch, Apple TV, and iPad.

Difference between Jailbreak and Unlock

Both jailbreaking and unlocking allow you to do things your iPhone does not normally have the ability to do. An unlock allows you to use other carriers SIM cards, and a jailbreak allows you to use unofficial apps and software on the iPhone. Here are further explanations:

What is an iPhone Jailbreak?

Jailbreaking refers to the process of modifying your iPhone firmware so that unsigned code can be run on the device. In other words, an iPhone with a jailbreak can run and install software that has not been verified or approved by Apple, allowing you access to a variety of third party tools and applications through what is called Cydia. You can think of Cydia as an unofficial app store, and it is full of applications that are not otherwise available through the iTunes App Store for various reasons. Using third party software is the primary reason people want to jailbreak an iPhone or other iOS hardware.

If you want to unlock your iPhone to use on another carrier, you will need to jailbreak the phone first before installing an unlock.

Jailbreaking your iPhone may also void your warranty and/or service agreement with your cell carrier and is known to void warranties with Apple. Proceed at your own risk.

What is an iPhone Unlock?

An “unlock” removes the carrier restrictions on your iPhone’s cellular modem, allowing an iPhone owner to move and use their phone on another competing cellular carrier. In many countries, most notoriously the USA, nearly all cell phones and smartphones are sold with what is called a ‘carrier lock’ which only allows the device to be used on the network for which it was purchased. For example, an iPhone is sold in the USA through AT&T, and therefore the iPhones are locked to only use AT&T as a carrier. This is where the iPhone unlocking software comes into play, with a successful unlock, you can insert another carriers SIM card (T-Mobile for example) into your unlocked iPhone and the iPhone will now work on the new cellular carrier. You only need to unlock an iPhone if you intend on using another carrier than what it was intended to be used for. Note that unlocks are often dependent on your iPhone baseband, baseband is really just another name for the devices cellular communication transmitter, or modem.

All software unlocks for iPhone require you to jailbreak your iPhone before the unlock can be installed and activated.

Though it is not illegal, note that unlocking your iPhone may void your warranty and/or service agreement with the carrier that you signed a contract with, in addition to Apple. Proceed at your own risk.

Do I need to Jailbreak or Unlock?

Whether you need to jailbreak or unlock depends on what you are trying to accomplish. If you wish to use the iPhone on another carrier, you need to unlock – in this case you will need to jailbreak the iPhone first so that you can install the unlock software. If you just want to install third party apps onto the iPhone and do things like customize the iOS interface, you can accomplish this with a jailbreak only.

More Jailbreak & Unlock Info

  • Is jailbreaking illegal? – the US Government has decided that jailbreaking and unlocking is not illegal. Read on if you are concerned about the legalities
  • Tethered vs Untethered Jailbreak – know and understand the differences between a tethered and untethered jailbreak
  • Unjailbreak the iPhone – How to undo a jailbreak – this is an easy task but you will lose third party applications installed through Cydia
  • iPhone DFU mode – possibly the trickiest part of jailbreaking is getting the device into DFU (it’s not difficult but sometimes requires a few tries)
  • iPhone unlock – all of our information about iPhone unlocks is available here
  • Jailbreak – all of our articles regarding jailbreaking is here, for iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and Apple TV

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Posted by: Manish Patel in iPhone

4 Comments

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  1. Dad says:

    Unlocking an iPhone in Australia is perfectly legal and easy. You just call your carrier (three sell iPhones here) and ask. It takes a few days and no jailbreak is required. I did this earlier this year when traveling in the US. Walked in to an AT&T store with my unlocked Australian iPhone and walked out half an hour later with an AT&T prepaid SIM installed. No data but calls and SMS worked perfectly.

  2. [...] you aren’t sure, you can learn whether or not a Jailbreak or Unlock is needed to achieve your desired results. Note that a jailbreak is necessary before an unlock can be [...]

  3. [...] You can follow our how to jailbreak iOS 4.2.1 with GreenPois0n untethered guide if you aren not sure how to use the app. Remember that GreenPois0n is not an unlock, you can read the difference between a jailbreak and unlock. [...]

  4. [...] iPhone 4 to work on the China Telecom CDMA network. The article seems a little confused as to the differences between a jailbreak or unlock, but here’s the important line: A post signed the “Apple Lab Team” on the Sina Weibo [...]

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