Jailbreaking Your iPhone 4S Or iPad 2: Not Nearly As Scary As It Might Sound
By Allison Mervis
Hi everyone. My name is Allison Mervis. I’m totally blind, and I absolutely love using and helping others to use both assistive and accessible mainstream technologies. I’d like to talk with you today about jailbreaking your iPhone 4S or iPad 2. Until recently I had no idea what jailbreaking was, and I was scared stiff of what the procedure might do to my beautiful and very expensive iPhone 4S. In this guide, I’m going to talk a little bit about what jailbreaking is, point you to some good sources of further information, walk you through the process of jailbreaking your iPhone 4S or iPad 2, and give you some pointers on what to do once the jailbreak is installed. As you read this, please keep in mind that I’m still very much a beginner when it comes to the exciting world of jailbreaking. I might not be able to answer all of the questions that you might have. However, I’ll make sure that you have enough information to get started. The resources I’ll mention throughout this guide should answer any additional questions you might have.
What Is Jailbreaking?
Many of you may be wondering, “What on earth is jailbreaking, and why on earth should I care?” To put it very briefly, jailbreaking is a way of modifying your iOS device in order to remove the limitations to accessing certain files and settings imposed by Apple. It also allows you to access Cydia, which is often called the Jailbreak app store. It contains many apps which for whatever reason, weren’t approved by Apple for distribution within the official app store. It also contains many settings tweaks and extensions. One example is SiriToggles, which once installed, allows you to use Siri to open programs and toggle settings such as WiFi and Bluetooth with your voice. I’ll talk a little more about apps and extensions later.
Types Of Jailbreaks
There are two types of jailbreaks; tethered and untethered. If you install a tethered jailbreak, you’ll need to connect your device to a pc or mac every time you want to reboot. With an untethered jailbreak, all of the files needed to reboot your device into a jailbroken state are installed on the device. I would hate to be away from a pc and be stuck in a situation where I couldn’t reboot my phone, so I will be talking about how to install an untethered jailbreak.
really helped me to gain a better understanding of what jailbreaking is. I encourage you to read it before continuing with this guide.
Before you start
There are a few things that you’ll want to keep in mind before getting started. First and foremost, jailbreaking is perfectly legal. However, as you most likely read in
if you send a jailbroken device to Apple for repairs, it may void your warranty. A technician will most likely be able to tell the device is jailbroken when they see the Cydia icon on your home screen. Fortunately reversing a jailbreak is as easy as plugging your device into your computer, selecting it in iTunes, and activating the restore button. This will restore the original Apple firmware. No one who looks at the device after the restore will be able to tell that you’ve ever jailbroken it. Another thing to keep in mind is that once an update to iOS is released, if you update through iTunes, you will lose your jailbroken firmware and Cydia apps, and your device will run the normal non jailbroken version of iOS. It usually takes anywhere from a few days to a few weeks for a new jailbreak to come out after a new version of iOS is released, because it basically needs to be rehacked. If you find that you really love the new jailbroken state of your device as I do, the wait will be worth it.
I want to reiterate that the jailbreak procedure I’m going to describe is only meant to be performed on an iPhone 4S or iPad 2 running the latest version of iOS, which is currently 5.0.1.
the website from which I obtained the jailbreak software,
also contains jailbreak software for older iOS devices. However, I cannot vouch for the accessibility or reliability of these programs. There are many other jailbreaks for older iOS devices available from other websites as well, so feel free to research and choose one which you feel will work best for you. As far as I know, the folks over at greenpois0n are the only ones to have released an untethered jailbreak for the iPhone 4S and iPad 2. After you’ve jailbroken, you will still have access to all of the standard features of your device. You’ll still be able to install apps from the app store and sync your music and other content with iTunes and iCloud. All of your apps, content, and settings will still be there after the jailbreak has been installed. If you are a developer, you will still be able to write and submit aps to the app store. However, keep in mind that if you want to install beta versions of iOS for testing purposes, you’ll lose your jailbroken firmware and apps. That’s why it’s important to have a dedicated device for app development and testing.
If you’re planning to perform the steps I’m going to outline below, I’m going to make a few assumptions. Firstly, I’m going to assume that you’re using a Windows PC, and that you’re running a screen reader that has some kind of mouse cursor feature. You should be comfortable using this feature before proceeding. I don’t use magnification software, so I don’t know how accessible the jailbreak software will be to low vision users. I ran the software using System Access on a PC running a 64 bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium. There is a version of this jailbreak software for the Mac as well, but again, I can’t vouch for its accessibility. I’m going to assume that you’re familiar with navigating websites, downloading files, and extracting zip archives. I’m going to assume that you’re comfortable launching and exploring apps on your iOS device, and that you’re familiar with voiceover gestures, exploring the screen either by flicking or touch exploration, and typing either on the on-screen keyboard or with a Bluetooth keyboard. If you are a Zoom user, I encourage you to give this process a try. However, once again, I can’t vouch for accessibility. Bearing all of this in mind, let’s get started!
Downloading And Installing The Jailbreak
The first thing you’ll want to do is back up your iDevice to iTunes and/or iCloud. This is a good habit to get into even if you’re not planning on jailbreaking. Next, you need to download the Absinthe jailbreak software for Windows from
Once you’ve loaded the page, activate the downloads link, navigate to the heading that says “For Apple A5 devices on 5.0.1,” and activate the download link for Windows that appears a few lines below it. Save the zip file somewhere on your hard drive, and once the download is complete, extract it. I chose to extract the contents of the zip file to its own folder. Connect your iDevice to your computer via USB. If iTunes pops up, let it finish syncing, and then close it.
The zip file for the jailbreak software contains a data folder, and an executable file called absinthe.exe. Locate this file and press enter. System Access read most of the introductory information in the Window that opened when I ran the program. Your screen reader may behave differently, but all of the information is accessible via the mouse cursor. Make sure the program is maximized, and then activate your mouse cursor. Take a moment to read the information on the screen, and then find and click on the jailbreak button. You may hear progress indicators, and the window may lose focus. If this happens, just alt tab back into it. Keep monitoring the text on the screen with your mouse cursor. The program doesn’t tell you this, but at this point, it’s installing the Absinthe jailbreak app on your iDevice. Your device may reboot, but just let it do its thing. Windows will find it again once it powers back on. After a few minutes, you’ll receive a message stating that you’re almost finished, and instructions to launch the absinthe app on your device. Keep your iDevice connected to your computer, and find and launch the Absinthe app. It was on the last page of my home screen, but don’t panic if it’s not in the same place for you. Keep looking around your home screen, and you’ll eventually find it. The app has an interface similar to a webpage. You’ll see a heading telling you to please stand by while things are set up, and some advertisements. There is no progress indicator within the app, so you kind of have to sit back and hope it’s working. The length of time you’ll have to wait may vary. You’ll know the jailbreak procedure was successful if the device reboots, and if you now have a Cydia app on your home screen instead of the Absinthe app.
My Jailbreaking Experience
At this point, I need to tell you that I was not able to get the jailbreak to take on the first attempt. The first time I ran the Absinthe app on my iPhone 4S, it rebooted within a few minutes, but when I checked my home screen, the Absinthe app was still there. Cydia had not been installed. I rebooted my phone, rebooted my pc, and ran absinthe.exe again. I received a message that recovery was complete, and was told to disconnect my phone from the pc and reconnect it if I wanted to try jailbreaking again. I did that, and this time, the Absinthe app sat there once I launched it, and the phone never rebooted. Since I had recently backed up my iPhone, I figured the simplest solution was to perform a restore in iTunes. After restoring, I reloaded all of my content onto the phone, and tried running absinthe.exe on the pc one more time. This time when I ran the absinthe app on the iPhone, it rebooted within a few minutes, and when I looked at my home screen, Cydia had replaced Absinthe. I closed absinthe.exe on the pc, and disconnected the phone from the USB port. I realize that the account of my initial inability to get the jailbreak to take might discourage some of you, but I included it to illustrate that with a little time and patience, it did work. I want you to have a realistic idea of some of the issues you may or may not face. Everyone’s tech setup is different, so it may work for you the first time. However, if it doesn’t, don’t give up.
Now that you’ve jailbroken your iDevice, it’s time to explore Cydia. Cydia Comes preloaded with a few sources, or repositories, from which it pulls its apps. There’s an app called All Sources that you can install which will populate Cydia with many reliable repositories, thereby allowing you to find even more apps. Let’s start by locating the Cydia app on the home screen and launching it. Since this is the first time you’ve run the app, it will go through some internal setup processes, and will exit. Launch it again, and on The setup screen that appears, indicate whether or not you’re an end user, a hacker, or a developer. The app provides great explanations of what each of those terms means within the context of Cydia.
You’ll notice various tabs along the bottom of the main screen. To add a new source, double tap the manage tab, and then the sources option near the top of the screen. The screen that comes up will show you all of the sources which are present in Cydia by default. Activate the edit button. This screen allows you to add and remove sources. Activate the add button. You’ll be presented with an edit field in which to type a URL. They already include the htpp://, so type
Find and activate the add source button and give Cydia a minute or so to update the sources with the new repository information. At this point, voiceover might become quite chatty as the new information is added. Once the repositories are updated, activate the done button to exit the edit screen. Activate the back button to exit the sources screen.
Searching For And Downloading Apps
Now it’s time to search for our first app in Cydia, all sources. Activate the search tab on the bottom of the main screen, and type all sources into the edit field. You can activate the search button in the bottom right hand corner of the screen. However, just like in the regular app store, the search results area above the on screen keyboard begins populating itself as you type. Locate All sources in the results area and double tap it to get to the details screen. This screen is pretty self-explanatory. Activate the install button, and you’ll be taken to a confirmation screen, which will display details like file size information. Once you activate the confirm button, the download and installation process will begin. You can monitor the installation process on the screen if you wish. Once again, voiceover may become very chatty as the various packages are downloaded and executed. When the installation is finished, there will be a return to Cydia link near the bottom of the screen. If you wish, you can go back to the manage tab and double tap sources in order to see how many new repositories were added.
Some apps will present you with a “restart springboard” link instead of “return to Cydia” after installation. From what I gather, restarting the springboard performs a reboot of sorts. On my phone, it returns me to the lock screen, and appears to close Cydia. Keep in mind that a lot of the apps you install are just extra settings or extensions that you won’t actually see on the home screen. Just like the regular app store, not all apps that you install are going to be accessible. Developers sometimes include their contact information on an app’s details screen. If you find an app that you can’t use due to inaccessibility, by all means contact the developer.
I genuinely hope that you have found this guide to be helpful, and that I’ve addressed some of the concerns and questions you might have regarding jailbreaking. Now it’s time for you to explore on your own. Don’t be afraid, and have fun. You’ll soon feel, as I now do, like you have a brand new phone. Why not search for and install the SiriToggles app that I mentioned earlier? Another one I really like is called five-column Springboard. This is an example of those apps I mentioned which don’t have a user interface, but which do some really cool things under the hood. In the case of Five-Column Springboard, an extra column is added to each page of your home screen, allowing you to have 20 icons per page instead of the usual 16. How awesome is that!
Additional Jailbreak Resources
I want to leave you with a few sources of additional information. The
is a great place to keep up with jailbreak news and software updates.
a wonderful website for all things related to Apple devices and programs for people who are blind and visually impaired, maintains a
specifically for jailbreak apps.
AppleVis also has a wonderful
an entire portion of which is dedicated to answering questions and pointing individuals to more resources regarding jailbreaking. Please click
to go directly to the jailbreak section of the guides page.
Cydia was only recently made accessible, so some of the information in some of the guides regarding its lack of accessibility is somewhat outdated. However, these guides are still an absolutely wonderful resource.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this guide. Again, I really hope you’ve found it to be helpful. I wish to publically thank
For allowing me to share my adventures in jailbreaking with you all. Please feel free to follow @allisonfm1985 on Twitter if you would like to contact me. Have a great time unleashing all of the hidden potential in your iDevice!