For advanced iPhone users, the best way to customise their handset is to jailbreak it which opens the door to a world of tweaks and hacks. While latest iOS releases are now not getting jailbreak’d as frequently as before, it still remains a popular choice among power users who cannot use their iPhone without their favorite Cydia tweaks.
Then, over in the Android world, there’s rooting. Similar to jailbreak, rooting an Android device opens the door to a world of hacks and tweaks that help improve a device performance, add new features to it, and more. Similar to jailbreaking, rooting is popular among power Android users, though its popularity has declined over the last few years.
Rooting Android vs Jailbreaking iPhone
There have been long (and unhealthy) debates among iPhone and Android users as to which is better: a jailbroken iPhone or a rooted Android device. While on surface, both things might seem the same — getting unauthorised access to certain system partitions to tweak files and make the device do what you want — they are actually very different from each other.
Rooting and Jailbreaking are the same thing
On paper, rooting an Android smartphone and jailbreaking an iPhone are the same thing. One essentially bypasses the security checks and restrictions imposed by the OEMs to gain access to system files and modify them to enhance existing features or add new ones. Both — rooting and jailbreaking — void the warranty of a device, though both are reversible and one can always restore their phone back to its stock state if they wish to.
Rooting and jailbreaking differ from each other in what they are capable of doing and the process of doing it. Rooting an Android device is more complex and time-consuming while jailbreaking an iPhone usually takes a few steps. However, while it is possible to root most Android devices out there, it’s rare that a jailbreak tool is available for the latest iOS release. Many Android OEMs like OnePlus actually embrace the third-party developer community and make it easier to root their devices. Apple, on the other hand, is completely against jailbreaking and actively patches exploits with every new iOS release that makes jailbreaking difficult.
Why root an Android device?
There are many benefits to rooting an Android device. The whole concept that it provides you with greater customisation options is true only to a certain extent. Most OEMs now offer plenty of customisation options on their Android devices which will suffice the need of most people out there. While you do get more customisation options on a rooted Android device, the additional options will only please a handful of people.
Nowadays, people primarily root their Android device to install a newer version of Android on it. It’s widely known that most Android OEMs end up ditching their smartphones a few months after its release. This means that they are left without software updates and it is up to the third-party community to keep the phone going. So, for example, the OnePlus One which never officially received the Nougat update is still going strong more than three years after its release, with plenty of Android 7.1 Nougat based custom ROMs available for it.
Another reason why most people root their handset is to remove the bloatware that their phone ships with. Some OEMs are still notorious for shipping their phones with plenty of pre-installed apps that cannot be removed. By rooting, users are able to remove such apps and free up internal storage on their device. Similarly, on older and mid-range devices, users root their handset to install a debloated custom ROM for better performance.
That’s not all though. In terms of advanced customisation, rooting an Android device lets one theme the SystemUI of the OS, change system fonts, enable hidden features, and more. Then, there’s also a custom framework like Xposed that provides one with access to features ported from other Android OEM skins or future versions of Android on their devices.
Rooting an Android device can lead to Android Pay and other banking apps not working on it due to the system partition being modified. For this, there’s Magisk — a ‘magic mask’ that lets one modify the system partitions without touching the system files at all. With Magisk, a rooted user will be able to install their favorite mods and framework, while still being able to use Android Pay and apps like Netflix.
Why Jailbreak an iPhone?
Jailbreaking an iPhone is all about bypassing the restrictions imposed by Apple to customise iOS the way one wants. If you can live inside Apple’s walled garden, it’s a beautiful place to be in but if you want plenty of customisation options, you will find this walled garden suffocating.
Jailbreaking an iPhone allows a user to change the default system apps, replace system icons, use a different launcher, theme the system UI, change system fonts, customise the Control Center, and more. Jailbreak is outright about customising iOS and its system apps and adding some new functionalities to it.
Most iPhone users jailbreak their phone for Cydia tweaks. Most of the customizations options post jailbreaking an iPhone are to be applied through Cydia. Some popular Cydia tweaks include Activator, BioProtect, Cylinder, iCleaner, and Zeppelin. They all help one customise or enhance the already existing feature set of iOS to make them even better.
Bye Bye Updates
A common downside to both rooting and jailbreaking is that you will have to bid adieu to software updates, with the security of your smartphone being compromised as well. Even if you get a notification of a new OTA update on a rooted Android smartphone or a jailbroken device, installing it will only end up soft bricking the device.
Rooting or jailbreaking your smartphone also makes it easier for hackers and law enforcement agencies to extract data from these phones using sophisticated tools.
Which one is better?
Due to the walled nature of iOS, even slightly advanced customisation options requires one to jailbreak their iPhone. In comparison, changing system icons, replacing stock system apps are all easily possible on an Android device even without root. However, iPhone users don’t need to jailbreak their device to improve its performance, remove bloatware or to update it to the latest version of the OS.
Rooting and jailbreaking have their own pros and cons, with none of them actually being better than both. It’s just that they are means to the same end: provide greater control to end users over their devices.