I've been a staunch iPhone jailbreaker since I first laid hands on the ancient, first-generation, EDGE-only device. I downloaded new themes for my phone; incorporated additional swooshing noises whenever I moved my thumb; built permanent controls for my WiFi, Edge, and (later) 3G connections into a hidden drop-down menu at the top of my iPhone's display. I grabbed Wolfenstein 3D for free. I synced my calendar to my Google Calendar. I even tethered my phone to my laptop (unless AT&T asks; then I did no such thing. What are you talking about?)
And yet, here I sit, on the eve of yet another firmware release by Apple, pondering if I'm really going to do it this time -- if I'm really going to run a successive wave of two firmware shift+restore updates and just call it a day. No jailbreak, no unlock, no external third-party applications. Just me and my trusty -- now revirginized -- iPhone.
"But why," you ask. "Why would you not want all these unofficial tools at your disposal? What about access to legions of future, unauthorized applications that extend limitless functionality into your device?" Two thoughts come to mind. First, I can hardly find these applications on Cydia anymore -- one of the central repositories for finding, downloading, and installing third-party applications. Second, the expansive feature list of both the iPhone's 3.0 firmware and the new abilities brought on as part of the iPhone 3GS have made many of my Cydia customizations . . . irrelevant.
One Cluttered Cydia
As it stands, Cydia is currently dominated by a wealth of iPhone themes. I used to try and check the application's list of updated third-party programs pretty frequently. But now that the customizing brought forth by the popular Winterboard application has inspired thousands of wannabe-artists, it's difficult to sort though the litter of themes to get to the tangible applications. This is a whiny complaint, I realize, but it's not just Winterboard-based themes that's blocking up the list. There are the soundboards I don't care about, as well as the litany of similar applications I have to deal with.
For example, instead of releasing a single application with different selectors, developers often prefer to launch multiple versions of a the same product. In essence, they're slapping new skins overtop an application's core code and -- you guessed it -- releasing it as a new application. No, I don't need a New England Patriots-themed calculator program. No, I don't need a San Francisco 49ers-themed calculator program. No, I don't need a . . . get my drift?
Skimming the Cream off Cydia's Top
While Jay Freeman, Cydia's developer, could stand to upgrade the application itself to increase the usability for iPhone and iPod Touch jailbreakers, he can't do much about the actual content that's being developed by these third-parties. In many ways, the new features coming through the pipeline via new Apple firmware or hardware makes a number of Cydia's biggest, unauthorized boons somewhat useless. If I purchase a 3GS, will I need a third-party application for shooting video? Not really. Will I need a third-party means for copy-and-paste starting tomorrow? Nope. What about MMS messaging and tethering? Provided AT&T decides to someday incorporate these groundbreaking technologies into its network (ie: develops an overvalued pricing scheme), the iPhone will be able to handle these features natively. No Apple-unauthorized apps need apply.
Push notifications? Got it. Landscape keyboard in all applications? Flipping tomorrow. Voice memos? Yep. Comprehensive, Spotlight-based searching? Ready. I'm not going to go through and list all of the features that the new firmware and/or iPhone 3GS are going to support. Suffice, the new features invalidate a number of previous Cydia applications. If I might be frank for a minute, there are very, very few Cydia apps I would even think about using after the launch of the 3.0 firmware -- one, NemusSync, is still an amazing way to synchronize the iPhone calendar with a Google Calendar over any connection type you want. The second, SBSettings, helps me turn my various connection options on and off at the flick of a finger. But really, that's about it for me.
Maybe I'm just cynical with Cydia, but even when I consider a number of applications on others' top-ten lists -- including apps that help you change the system font, swap out the boot logo, or uses gestures to control your media controls -- I find myself uninspired to incorporate these add-ons into my phone. They just don't deliver powerful enough functionality to make me want to futz with the admittedly simple process of jailbreaking, because I know I'm rarely going to really want to make use of this much customizing on my phone. The features I care most about are coming tomorrow (or whenever AT&T feels like it) -- I think it's time I planned my big escape from jail.
Are you planning on Jailbreaking your iWhatever tomorrow? What third-party applications are keeping the jailbreaking movement alive for you? Leave a message in the comments and I'll do a roundup of the best apps in a future Geek Tech blog! Unless, of course, I'm right...