The iPhone hacker George Hotz, (aka geohot on Twitter) has done it again. Earlier this year, he made a name for himself in the hacking community as being the first to provide a usable iPhone 3GS jailbreak, which he then followed up by releasing a "better" unlock tool for the same device. Now he's again beaten the iPhone Dev Team to the punch with his release of blackra1n, a jailbreak tool for the Apple's latest iPhone firmware, 3.1.2.

Unlocking vs Jailbreaking

Jailbreaking and unlocking the iPhone are two different hacks which allow you to take control of your mobile device in different ways. Jailbreaking is a type of hack that lets you install unapproved third-party applications on your iPhone or iPod Touch from searchable repositories provided by apps like Cydia and Icy. Unlocking, on the other hand, is a hack that lets you use your iPhone on another cellular network. Here in the U.S., that means you can use the iPhone on T-Mobile instead of AT&T. You have to first jailbreak your phone before you can unlock it, but you don't have to unlock a phone in order to jailbreak it.

Unfortunately, what was once a relatively simple process has gotten more complex over time as new iPhone models were introduced and new hacking tools were being put out by multiple parties, often with confusing names like Pwnage Tool, Purplesn0w and redsn0w. With each release of iPhone firmware, it seems as if there's a whole new lexicon of terms to master and new procedures to follow. The 3.1.2 jailbreak is no exception. However, this jailbreak works on all versions of the iPhone and even on the latest iPod Touch.

How to Jailbreak the 3.1.2 Firmware (Windows Instructions)

Before beginning this jailbreak, keep in mind that this is for jailbreakers only - not unlockers. That means if you're currently using your phone on a non-standard carrier (for example, in the U.S. you're using T-Mobile instead of AT&T), then you do NOT want to use this tool because it will disable the unlock.

But if you're just interested in jailbreaking, read on:

  1. Update to 3.1.2: If you haven't done so already, download the latest version of iTunes. Next, update your iPhone to the latest firmware when you're prompted to do so (click "Download and Install" on the pop-up message). Allow the new firmware to install as you would normally. This will un-jailbreak your phone for the time being.

  2. Get the jailbreak tool: To get started with the newest jailbreak, Windows users should head to http://blackra1n.com. and click on the window icon at the bottom of the page to download the executable.
  3. Run blackra1n: After the download is complete, connect your iPhone to your PC and run the executable. Click the "make it ra1n" button and the message will display "entering recovery..." (Note: Vista and Windows 7 users should run it in compatibility mode and as "Administrator." Right-click on the file, go to Properties, then click the "Compatibility" tab. Check the "run this program in compatibility mode for:" checkbox and choose Windows XP Service Pack 2 from the list provided. Click "OK" to close the window. Right-click to run as the Administrator.)

  4. Device reboots: Continue letting the program run, the message now reads "running..." and after you see the image of geohot's face (the same as seen here), the device will reboot. A pop-up message will display prompting you to donate if you can. Click "OK" to close this message.
  5. Launch blackra1n on the iPhone: On your iPhone, look for the blackra1n icon and tap it to launch the program.
  6. Pick your favorite installer program: On the screen that appears, you have a choice between installer programs (repositories of jailbreak apps). Tap the one you prefer - Cydia, Rock or Icy - any will do. Blackra1n will install your chosen program on your phone and will relaunch the iPhone springboard when complete. Your phone is now jailbroken, and you can use Cydia, Rock or Icy to browse, search for and install jailbreak apps.

Tips: If the Upgrade is Stuck at "Running," Try the Following:

  • Set airplane mode on.
  • Move blackra1n to the C:\ drive and run it from there.
  • Kill any iTunes-related services prior to running.
  • While it's stuck on "running," do a hard reboot (push the home and power buttons simultaneously). The app will display a message that says it's done jailbreaking, but it's not. With the USB cable still plugged in, re-run the blackra1n app. This time it should work.

However, be aware that the blackra1n jailbreak is still a little iffy for some users. Several people have reported that they're unable to jailbreak, despite following instructions. If you're not feeling adventurous, you may want to wait for the Dev Team's jailbreak instead.

Mac Users Have to Wait

Sorry Mac users, there is no jailbreak yet available for 3.1.2 just yet. However, you can use the Pwnage Tool to jailbreak older 3.1 versions of the iPhone firmware. More details are here.

Update 10/14/09: The iPhone Dev Team has now released a Mac tool for jailbreaking 3.1.2. More details are here.