So long, iOS -- jailbreakers have found their home: Android

Jailbreakers deserve the malware infections they get, which is why they're moving to Android's 'malware is the norm' world

This week, another virus was reported infecting jailbroken iPhones. Honestly, if you jailbreak your iPhone or iPad, you deserve what you get as a result. It's like wondering why someone carted off your stuff when you left the door propped open all day.

Jailbreaking your iPhone or iPad is a dangerous activity, with lots of malware masquerading as legitimate jailbreak tools. They jailbreak your iOS device, so you can customize it, but they also load in malware and spyware to the newly customizable iOS. If you don't understand that, you shouldn't be opening up your protected device in the first place.

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And good luck in knowing which jailbreak tools are legit and which are not. Most are not. (My advice, if you must jailbreak your iOS device: Go to the Cydia site first for links to jailbreak apps to see what it recommends. Cydia's creator, Jay Freeman, is legit, and he vets his recommendations.)

My InfoWorld colleague Serdar Yegulalp noted in a conversation this week that iOS jailbreaking has largely faded away as a phenomenon, and people who want to customize their mobile OS are getting Android devices instead. That makes sense.

First, there's just one legitimate jailbreak (Pangu) for iOS 7.1, which is what most iOS devices now run. (Watch out for the many malware-infested copies of Pangu in circulation on the Web.) Apple has made jailbreaking harder and harder with each iOS version, which means jailbreakers need to stay behind everyone else to get the freedom to customize their OS.

More important, Android has matured significantly since iPhone jailbreaking was all the rage. iOS is a highly curated environment, one that attracts those who like their devices to just work. Android is designed to be whatever you want, so it is inherently open to be modded, with very little effort. For most users, all it takes is going to the Settings app to enable sideloading, the ability to install software not from the (poorly curated) Google Play market.

Some devices have modified OSes that lock down some functions, so you need to root your Android devices. That's not a simple activity, but if you can handle a command line, you can do it -- it's essentially the same process as jailbreaking an iOS device.

Anyone inclined to jailbreak an iOS device can do so more easily, or at least just as easily, on customization-friendly Android, in a current or at least very recent version. No wonder it's the mobile OS of choice for the modding crowd.

Android's Google Play store is already awash in malware and viruses, so that reason to avoid rooting doesn't really exist in Google's world. It's like Windows: Malware and viruses are a fact of life, and that unpleasant fact has done nothing to curb Windows' -- or Android's -- overwhelming market share. People clearly aren't bothered enough to seek a more controlled environment.

I bet malware is a big issue for OS X and iOS users, who rarely experience it -- ironically dissuading jailbreak experimentation by significant numbers of people in the Apple world. But if you adopt Android, you've already accepted malware infection as a likely event, just as you do when you adopt Windows. Thus, you're not that upset when it does happen. Maybe you're even thrilled a little.

This article, "So long, iOS -- jailbreakers have found their home: Android," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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