For the past seven months, jailbreaking (opening an iPhone to applications not signed by Apple for installation) has relied on an exploit dubbed “24kPwn”. We’ll skip the technical voodoo for the sake of not putting you straight to sleep, but here’s the important bit: in the latest batch of iPhone 3GS units to hit the shelves, the exploit has been fixed. Unless a new exploit is discovered (and, with each patch, this is becoming less and less likely), any iPhone 3GS to ship after last week will not be jailbreakable.
If you want the full technical rundown of the exploit, you can find it here. In its simplest form: as with all computers, the iPhone requires something called a “Bootrom” to startup. During the startup process, one stretch of code in the Bootrom fails to ensure that the content being loaded is within a certain size limit. By throwing more instructions at that chunk of code than it’s intended to handle, exploiters are able to make the iPhone do damn near whatever they want; in this case, the jailbreaking process.
Does anyone even really care about jailbreaking a iPhone anymore? Is the desire for a customizable homescreen really that powerful?
MobileCrunch, though, brings up a good point which might explain why Apple finally decided to patch up the above mentioned exploit. You see, one of the things that a jailbroken iPhone allows you to do is install pirated iPhone apps and completely bypass the iTunes App Store sandbox, and thereby screw both Apple and affected developers out of any revenue from app sales . Some iPhone developers, such as Beejive (which develops an IM app for the iPhone) for example, are reporting that up to “80 percent of their users are pirates.” And for an app that’s priced at $9.99, as BeejiveIM is, that level of piracy ads up real quick and can potentially destroy a developers ability to earn any substantial revenue.
The app store is and will continue to be the key differentiate among all the other mobile app stores, and you can bet your bottom dollar that Apple will do all it can to keep it running like a well-oiled machine.