Impressions on the Social Age

Break Out Adventure

Posted in Uncategorized by Trace on August 12, 2010

The Problem

I, like many of my fellows, love my iPhone, but sometimes I just wish it was a bit more convenient to use. For example, when in New York City or DC there are 10 million* WiFi networks. When walking around, my iPhone pops up with a little notification every time I use an app that accesses the Internet:

Stop! I don’t want to join your network!

To turn off these pop-ups I can either disable WiFi or Disable the Notifications in the WiFi menu… However, either option requires me to go to Page 2 of my Home screen, tap Settings, scroll to and tap WiFi, then tap to toggle Notifications to Off or toggle WiFi to Off.

The whole process is simply arduous. Especially when an Android phone can put a toggle right on the home screen. This is just one example of the hoop-jumping iPhone users subjected to proprietary software. There are other examples, but I think we all get the point.

A Solution

JAILBREAK! Get that iPhone out of Apple’s exclusive grip: now without legal ramifications (instead only violates Apple’s terms and conditions).

Jailbreaking your iPhone is a simple process. It does not damage your iPhone in any way, and is (usually) completely reversible. Think of it as a new case for your iPhone, you can try it out, and if you don’t like it, take it off and you’re back to normal. I’ve done it many times with my iPhone 3G. In fact, not long ago I jailbroke my iPhone.
Specifically, I wanted to install a piece of software that would tackle a few problems I felt were too maddening to ignore. For example, toggling Bluetooth or WiFi to save battery, the ability to show a battery percentage on a 3G, and a few other minor tweaks. It seemed to me, jailbreaking was the only viable solution.

The Breakout

As it turns out, Jailbreaking is even simpler than the last time I tried it (over a year ago). I downloaded a simple piece of software, ran it on my computer with my iPhone plugged in, and 15 minutes later the phone rebooted with my custom boot screen:

Simple. Colorful. Apple-ish. Jailbroken.

I smiled to myself and began my new life with a Jailbroken iPhone. I was happy, for the moment… To explain the process would be silly, as there are literally dozens of websites that explain how to Jailbreak your iPhone, but in simplest terms the reason to do so is:

  • Jailbreaking allows the iPhone to install Non-Apple-approved apps.
  • It installs Cydia, a gigantic hacker version of the app store.
  • and it allows users to customize the user interfaces (i.e. sounds, wallpapers, ringtones) without too much trouble.

Because of this, many users spend hours trolling the Cydia apps and checking all the things you can customize, but not me, I was on a mission.The first thing I did, was remove the bulky “AT&T” carrier name, replacing it with “Crap,” I also tweaked the battery percentage. This was a big one for me, as I could now see exactly how much battery I had left, rather than squinting with one eye at the little battery icon attempting to discern its approximate life. I also installed SBSettings.SBSettings comes in the form of a drop-down menu. It is always there, hidden at the top of your iPhone screen and accessible without leaving a call or closing an app. It allows for the Toggling of WiFi (no more menus), Bluetooth (no more draining battery for no reason), 3G (sometimes 3G service is buggy in DC), and numerous others (SSH, Brightness, etc).

SBSettings. Swipe the status bar at the top and it drops down over whatever you are doing.

Touch the status bar again, and it disappears. It’s always there… waiting…

Again, I was happy… for a while. I thought I had everything I wanted. I could see my battery percentage, knew the date and time at a glance, and when I wasn’t using it, my Bluetooth was only a swipe away from giving my battery a rest.

The Madness

As it the week floated by, I came to realize the few trivial things I changed were great, but what about my SMS Tone? The iPhone comes with only six. There is no way to add a new tone (without Jailbreaking) and I had been using the only good one for 18 months! Unfortunately, so was everyone else… *ping**ping*!

I began to search for a way to alter the SMS Tone. I spent at least three hours on this attempt and finally made my own, custom SMS tone. FYI, I decided on the power up sound from Super Mario Bros. NES: the sound of little Mario becoming BIG Mario. Awesome, right?

Then, I said to myself, why not have a custom lock screen (the screen the iPhone shows when the phone is locked) I could have anything I want! what power… The lock screen buttons, bars, text… everything! Everything is customizable!

Two hours later (at 4AM) I had a customized lock screen with colorful sliders, custom text and a new wallpaper. I woke up the next morning and decided I didn’t like any of the previous night’s decisions. And began the process anew.

Next, I thought, why not some fancy ringtones?! I can get any ringtone I want! This Cydia App Store has hundreds! After that, I could get a custom icon for the service level, replacing the boring lowercase “at&t” THEN, a custom background when the phone is NOT locked and then perhaps new icons, and THEN
You get the idea…

The Conclusion

Today, exactly a week after Jailbreaking my iPhone, I am restoring it to factory settings.

I spent this week with Jailbreak Madness only to realize, Jailbreaking is a waste of my time.

The first sign was when I hit the home button, and nothing happened for 3 or 4 seconds. The iPhone was starting to become bogged down with all these little tweaks. Next, was when I would spend an hour playing with settings, only to return the phone to how it was before I began my playings.

My iPhone had become more than just a phone; more than a useful device; it had become an omnipresent distraction; a never-ending project of exploration into the various customizable interfaces, wallpapers, icons and sounds that a computer can replicate.

Today, I restored my iPhone to factory settings and closed Pandora’s box. Some things are better left under the regulation and control of Steve Jobs’ minimalist regime.

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