If you haven't heard, or perhaps if you just don't care, Apple is holding an event for this afternoon to announce the features in their upcoming major release to the iPhone operating system. As usual, the Internet is abuzz with speculation about what it may or may not include, but for thousands of iPhone users like myself there is only one question on our minds: how long until a jailbreak is released?
For those unfamiliar with the situation on the iPhone, the long and the short of it is that the iPhone operating system is extremely powerful and flexible, but Apple has built certain protections in place to ensure that it only works a certain way -- the way they want it to work. So, for example, any third party programs that you purchase separately from the iPhone can only run in a one-at-a-time fashion. If you want to listen to Last.fm, for example, you can only listen to Last.fm. You can't leave the Last.fm application running while you compose an email. Additionally, third party applications can't share information with any other applications To "jailbreak" your iPhone basically just means that you're running an altered version of Apple's iPhone operating system that allows developers to get around these restrictions.
So then I started to ask myself, what features would Apple have to add to iPhone OS 4.0 to make me not want to jailbreak my iPhone anymore? Here's a quick rundown of the major features that I've come to depend on in my iPhone that, up until now, I could only get by running an altered version of their operating system.
I think this may be viewed as a silly and minor detail, but the fact that the iPhone doesn't do this out-of-the-box drives me crazy. One of the first things I do after jailbreaking is to install the StatusNotifier application. This application displays little icons in the upper right corner of the phone to indicate things such as missed calls, incoming SMS messages, or unread email. It's such a simple, useful thing that I don't understand why Apple hasn't thought of it.
I get it: the iPhone isn't a computer and it's probably a good thing that they don't allow an unlimited number of application to run constantly. It would be a severe drain on the battery and would dramatically impact performance. But there are certain applications, and certain times, when you just need an application to keep running while you're working on something else. For iPhone users who choose to jailbreak their phones, there is the Backgrounder app which allows you to keep any application going by simply holding down the home button. The application keeps going, and the next time you open the app up it picks up right where you left it.
I think Apple needs to find some sort of middle ground here -- perhaps allowing a single app to sit in the background at a time. If you've ever used the Nike+ application or put a caller on hold while you look up a contact, you've probably noticed the colored band that can appear at the top of the iPhone to remind the user that either Nike+ is still running or that they have a call on the line; Why not use that same system to remind users that they have an application running in the background? It would make it clear to the user that they can only run one background app, and they would certainly be aware if they accidentally left it running.
This one is definitely not a deal breaker, but another nice feature of jailbroken iPhones that I've gotten used to. Natively, the iPhone allows you to keep four applications always accessible in the dock, but jailbroken iPhone users can install the Five Icon Dock application to add one more to the list. Not a big deal, of course, but you can easily fit five icons in the dock without cramping anything, so it would be nice to have that as an option on all iPhones.
The iPhone OS has really come a long way. I used to depend on jailbroken apps for all kinds of things that Apple eventually addally added, such as copy and paste, tethering, and search. I guess we'll know for sure this afternoon, but if these few things are added into iPhone OS 4.0, I think I'll finally be content running an out-of-the-box Apple iPhone without jailbroken hacks.
Are there any jailbreak tricks that you depend on? Think Apple will be adding them into the 4.0 OS? Let me know in the comments.