It’s my phone goddamn it!

I don’t care about intellectual property, copyright, trademark, DMCA, end user agreements or international marketing zones.  I just want to use my goddamn phone. I want to use it how I want to use it. I want to use where I want to use it.  I want to use it to watch, play and listen to whatever the hell I want to. How about you?

In order to achieve this seemingly revolutionary degree of personal electronic freedom, I have to do quite a bit of work.  First, I have to be very careful about the platform I select.  I can’t go pick up a 3 year old Nokia.  Although it would be just as hackable as an iphone or android it just isn’t sexy enough to attract the attention of the anonymous pirate engineers who make it possible for me to gain electronic freedom.

What happens next, depends on the platform.  Most likely, I’ve selected either iOS or Android.  There are some people hacking away at blackberries, but generally, that crowd just takes it as it is.  Nokia?  Umm, sorry, Windows phones?  (For modern smart phones, anyway) Sorry, the market will be there one day, and the hackers to match, but it’s just not fully developed yet.

Let’s say you chose iOS.  That’s where I started.  What device?  iPhone 2g, 3g, 3gs, 4, 4s?  Different paths for each of these.  On each device, you need to know what baseband you are on.  Baseband determines a lot about how much freedom you can download onto your phone.  Specifically, baseband exploits determine whether you can unlock your phone.  Unlocking gives you the option to use SIM chips from different phone service providers.

So, there’s an exploit for your baseband?  Ok, next question, what’s your firmware? Your firmware is the middle layer between hardware and software.  Different firmwares have different exploits to jailbreak your phone.  Jailbreak is how you let your phone run software that you choose, not just what you buy on the approved app store.  It can also let you run software you haven’t paid for, which is generally used to villify a perfectly natural desire to pick your own software.  Somehow, amazingly, US policy precedent has determined that you have the right to jailbreak your own phone.  Expect someone to pay a lot of money to congress to remedy that sometime soon.

If you’re like me, as soon as you have jailbroken and unlocked your iphone, a new software or hardware upgrade will be out to tempt you to start the entire process over again.  The typical time commitment per upgrade is about 12-16 hours, usually spread over 3 days.  That’s a lot of work just be stubborn and add a few kludgy non-approved upgrades, but that’s my life.

Surely, Google’s Android wouldn’t put us through all that. Well, kinda.  For Android, your platform choices are really dizzying.  Nexus, RAZR, Galaxy, Droid, Streak, Velocity, Sensation?  Seriously, I could list a few hundred models, and all have different capabilities and hacking potential.  Whatever model, you have to find out about the capability to root (like Jailbreaking on iOS) and unlock (like, err, unlocking on iOS).

Unlocking generally is easier, often achievable by begging the original carrier, or through basic hacks that you can download and run (often for a fee) without the drama inherent in iOS.  Oh, to be clear, Androids have baseband too, but we don’t talk about them as much as for iOS.  Unlocking is just generally less nefarious on Android.  I don’t know why.  It’s just how it works.  Might as well ask why it’s ok pick your nose in your car on the highway, but everyone looks at you funny if you do it while waiting for your food in the drive-thru.

Why do you root Android, rather than Jailbreak it?  It probably doesn’t matter for my or your purposes, but rooting is a much ‘deeper’ level of access.  Rooting would let you replace Android OS completely, while jailbreaking lets you add non-approved software.  I have, btw, seen rooted iPhones. They really suck, as proper non-iOS drivers aren’t available for the hardware.  So, anyway, to root Android, you utilize an exploit to give yourself Superuser (sometimes called Admin) privileges.  I love that phrase, btw.  Stand back!  This is a job for SUPERUSER!

There, that’s the short of it.  I go through this often.  If you decide to start doing this  to, there’s nothing in this article that will help you do it.  It might, however, help you understand the articles that will help you do it.  Good luck to you, and I beg you.  Use this power wisely and only for good purposes.  I’m not sure what evil purposes it might be put to, but let me know in the comments.  You know, things your friend’s brother did, not you.  I know you wouldn’t do anything evil.

Want to know more?  Away with you to the Google-

iOS:  Dev Team

Android: XDA-Developers, CyanogenMod