in iOS, jailbreak, tech

Well, what about the jailbreak?

iOS8 is here today and as I always do before an iOS update, it’s time to audit my jailbreak. Of late, I’ve grown distant from the jailbreak idea as such. I still have a jailbroken iPhone 4S and iPad Mini 1, but there’s barely much happening there.

RAM? What’s that?

The first problem with my jailbreak is that it’s on a device that’s now, well, old. The iPhone 4S has 512 MB of RAM and as much as Apple fanboys will tell you that you don’t need RAM because Apple has a) tight integration with their hardware or b) amazing tricks up their sleeves that put apps to ‘sleep’ as soon as you minimize them, the truth is that if you jailbreak, you need RAM.

Jailbreak tweaks are power-hungry. For the longest time, I had WinterBoard installed on my phone and the result was a slowly dawdling phone with not enough strength to run two apps proper. One fine day, I tore out WinterBoard, Activator and a bunch of other things and I’ve never been happier.

But it doesn’t end there. The fact is, even non-jailbreak apps are power and RAM hungry. Facebook is a battery hog and there’s no doubt about it. But there are others. Of late, I realized that while listening to music on Spotify, I could not take photos. If I opened any camera based app (Camera, Instagram, iMessage, WhatsApp) and turned on the camera, either the app would crash instantly or, if my phone would still have the strength to open the camera view, clicking a photo would cause Spotify to crash and my music to stop. God forbid I throw Google Maps into the mix and the whole system would crash and SpringBoard would force me into Safe Mode.

That gave me an idea – why not crash SpringBoard purposefully? As expected, someone had made provisions for that. Now, an app-like icon called SafeMode sits on the last page of my phone and whenever I’m out and about or with friends, I quietly crash the phone into safe mode and gleefully use the phone the way it was intended to be – as a means to click photos of your food.

But then, I noticed that no matter how much I crash the phone, kill the apps and clear my RAM, the trifecta of Google Maps, Spotify and Camera would just not work together. I discovered that the culprit came down from the top. iOS’s relatively new notification center is a bigger hog than most apps. If you’ve got crashing apps, sluggish performance and a near-dead phone, just clear the 20 Facebook and Instagram notifications you’ve got sitting in the notification center and things will be fast again. The problem is that in safe mode, notifications don’t show in the notification center, even though they’re there. So, to speed up the safe mode, one has to first go back into jailbreak mode and clear the darn notifications!

That’s too much work for very little reward. But what is the reward?

Well, what tweaks am I running?

  1. SwipeShiftCaret – This is my most valuable tweak. As such, I don’t have a complaint about the iOS keyboard (except that it doesn’t support my fat fingers). But what I despise is the text selection and caret movement implementation. That silly little magnifying glass is painful, imprecise and troublesome when serious writing needs to be done. It also does not work properly with many webpages and apps, including Google Search. This is a major pain point that Apple doesn’t seem to have a clue how to fix. Third party devs and jailbreak tweakers, though, have long solved the issue. SwipeShiftCaret allows me to swipe on the editable area and move the caret along the text, giving me an easy way to move through my text. Some writing apps have added similar features, including the ability to select text by swiping. Apple, take a cue, steal this idea. We’ll all thank you for it.
  2. PasswordPilot – This is the other MVP in my stash. This simple tweak gives me the option to never have to enter my Apple ID password when downloading apps, logging into Find Friends/FindMyiPhone and other places where Apple forces you to enter your password. I download a lot of apps and if I were to enter my password thirty times a day, it would be hell. But whenever the “Enter your password:” dialog shows up, my password is pre-entered and I just tap OK and am on my merry way. This is a valuable tweak to me since I’m two generations separated from the fancy fingerprint sensor and there’s no reason for me to love entering my password so many times a day.

While I fully intend on upgrading to the iPhone 6++ soon, until that behemoth is in my hands, PasswordPilot is my savior of the day.

  1. MediaExport – this is a funky little tweak that’s a fully functioning app with a bad UI. But MediaExport solves a really big problem for me. I share a lot of photos over iMessage and over time, this led to about 2 GB of space on my puny phone being wasted on iMessage photos. While my next phone will surely be 64 GB (something tells me that with Retina apps, even that much won’t be enough), my poor 16 GB iPhone4S suffers lack of space more often than Mumbai does. So, I use MediaExport to delete images from the messages app. It’s a monthly task. Painful but necessary.
  • iFile – This lovely utility has been my saving grace more often than once. Whether it be using Dropbox to import music files, dropping dev packages for installation in iOS, tweaking the Facebook and Instagram apps to unravel dev features or simply for browsing the guts of my phone, iFile is a godsend. There’s not much else to say about iFile. Install it. You’ll need it.

  • Daily Paper – finally, some vanity. I hate seeing the same wallpaper day after day but am too lazy to download, apply and track wallpapers myself. Daily Paper just downloads the latest Bing mobile wallpaper and applies it to my lockscreen. It doesn’t even need to save the wallpaper in my Photos in order to do this. I get to see a new wallpaper every day and it doesn’t seem to be a big resource hog, so it’s all win-win.

  • What can I live without?

    Actually, the more appropriate title of this section is, what I absolutely need. Out of the 5 tweaks mentioned, the ones I really certainly need are SwipeShiftCaret, Media Export and iFile. I haven’t used Apple’s TouchID sensor yet, but I feel I’ll be using that a lot once I get the 6++ (really, pun intended). That’ll take care of PasswordPilot. As for Daily Paper, it’s vanity. Meh.

    But Apple still hasn’t taken care of the caret management in iOS 8. It’s still that ugly and useless magnifying glass. As far as I know, there’s also no solution to the media management issues in the messages app in iOS 8. As for iFile, I like mucking around the innards of iOS apps and the file system. If I can’t have that, it’ll be sad.

    So, what’s next?

    Well, I’m certainly not getting iOS 8 on my iPhone 4S. Not when I hope to walk into the Apple Store two days from now to order a new iPhone for myself. I’ll enjoy the last few days of this jailbreak for now and if by the time the next jailbreak comes, Apple still hasn’t fixed the issues I highlighted here (sure, Tim Cook reads my blog every day, right?), I’ll just go ahead, jailbreak, and enjoy these lovely tweaks all over again.