The long-awaited iPad/iPhone jailbreak has finally arrived, allowing anyone with an iPhone, iPod Touch or even the brand-new Apple iPad running the newest versions of the iPhone Operating System the ability to unlock their device and install unapproved, third-party applications.

Unlike Google's Android Market, the app store for Google-powered phones, Apple's iTunes App Store is tightly controlled with only "approved" applications allowed access. But for jailbreakers, the term used to describe those who hack their devices, hundreds more applications are immediately available, allowing you greater control and freedom over the hardware you own.

Why Jailbreak?

Users who jailbreak can download apps that allow you to customize everything on the device from your homescreen images to your icons. You can also multitask by running apps in the background, tether your iPhone to your PC to use it as a modem, even turn your iPhone into a "MiFi" hotspot. Those are just the highlights, though. The jailbreak application stores (there are several, like Cydia, Icy and RockYourPhone, for example) have apps that let you do pretty much anything. Here, there really are "apps for that," when "that" is something Apple would rather you not do.

For some users, there are only one or two apps that make jailbreaking worthwhile, but for others, the reason for jailbreaking isn't just the apps themselves, but the freedom a jailbroken device provides.

For those who aren't afraid to void their warranty (don't worry, you can always restore to factory settings with no one the wiser), the new jailbreaking tool called "Spirit" brings that level of freedom to all Apple mobile devices running firmware 3.1.2, 3.1.3 or 3.2. This is also an "untethered" jailbreak, meaning you don't have to plug in your device to your computer every time your reboot it, an issue that plagued similar exploits used in the recent past.

How To Jailbreak the iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch

Note that this particular jailbreak is what's known by the hacker community as a "userland" jailbreak. That means that it exploits a security weakness in the mobile operating system. Apple tends to quickly patch these holes, once exposed, through software updates. Jailbreak users who don't want to be affected by the soon-to-arrive Apple software update, can go through a procedure to back up something called "SHSH blobs" which allow you to downgrade and re-jailbreak your device if you were to accidentally upgrade. If you want go through this step, there's a tutorial here. Otherwise, just be careful to not upgrade your device when a new software patch is released.

Once you're ready to jailbreak, do the following:

  1. Verify you're running the latest version of iTunes (9.1.1) and then sync your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad one last time in order to back it up. The iPad should be running OS 3.2.
  2. Download the Spirit jailbreak for Mac or PC. Both are found on the Spirit homepage. (Also here: Mac, PC).
  3. Connect the iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch to your computer using the USB cable.
  4. Run the Spirit jailbreak application. (Note: Windows users may need to run the program as an administrator - Right-click on the .exe file and choose "Run as Administrator" from the menu. If you still have issues, try running it in compatibility mode as well. Right-click, go to Properties, Compatibility tab, and check the box "Run this program in compatibility mode for: Windows 98/Me").

  5. Click the "jailbreak" button.

  6. The iPad will automatically reboot.
  7. Once rebooted, you'll see the "Cydia" application installed on your iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad's desktop. From here, you have access to all the unapproved, third-party applications.

That's it!

Your device is now hacked.

Note that Spirit is not a "carrier unlock" which allows the iPhone to be used with carriers other than AT&T. It is a jailbreak only.