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Should App Makers Support Jailbroken iOS Devices?

Posted by C.S. Hsia on · Comments

On the previous blog entry, we discussed the nuances of testing iOS apps on devices, something all iOS app developers are all too familiar with. However once the app is in the hands of end users, the problem gets even bigger. Aside from supporting the different Apple devices in the iOS family and different iOS versions, you are now faced with JailBroken users.

The fact is, a fairly sizable percentage of iPhone users have jailbroken their devices. The degree of "tempering" with Apple's original specifications varies depending on the user. Some jailbreak only for the sake of unlocking, others use it to tweak Apple's user interface with things like Spring Board Settings. However, the more "un-sanctioned" code that gets installed onto devices, the more unpredictable its behavior becomes.

Steve never expected you to do this.

The irony is this: these people may have enraged the overlords at Cupertino with their actions, they still have valid, paying iTunes accounts. This means they can leave feedback, and determine the financial success of your application.

With Apple's recent removal the API in iOS 4.0 that detected jail-broken devices, it might mean that Apple has accepted the fact that users who jailbreak are still an active, revenue generating party of the iTunes family. There are now no easy way for a developer to detect whether a device is jail-broken, so I suppose you are now expected to support them. At this point, perhaps we can draw parallel to the desktop computing world. A developer cannot generally fault people for installing too many pieces of software on the core operating system.

The difference is that testing on a desktop is relatively easy. I can easily find willing friend and families with different computers, and none of them need any complicated "provisioning" process. If Apple secretly wants us to support the jailbreaking users, but still keeps the developers hands tied when it comes to testing, it's definitely a problem for smaller development teams that might not be able to afford a myriad of devices.

What are your thoughts on supporting jailbroken iPhones? Chime in via the comments below!