The Why and How of Jailbreaking my iPhone 3GS

I got my iPhone 3GS at its launch in June 09 – and though I do love it I reckon it lacks some important functionality and could do with several usability improvements – and I think I’m not alone 😉

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I also have an iPod Touch 2G – which I jailbroke with the Dev-Team’s redsn0w 0.72 shortly after getting the iPhone so I could explore Homebrew development – and though I had intended to keep the iPhone ‘official’ – six months of playing and testing has convinced me to jailbreak my iPhone too and unlock some of its hidden potential.

This fairly lengthy post outlines my research, choices, process and outcomes…

Here’s some of what I think I’ll gain:

All of which makes for a pretty convincing argument I think – though there are downsides too:

  • possible connectivity issues – e.g. loosing Wi-Fi connectivity – though this seems to be an issue with the update to the 3.1.x firmware itself according to this Apple forums thread – rather than the (specifically blackra1n) jailbreak and I’ve had no problems myself since updating to the firmware in iTunes;
  • the waste of time and effort if it doesn’t go according to plan;
  • having to get on the ‘jailbreak train’ – and stay on it;
  • having to re-jailbreak after developing faults and glitches
  • voiding the warranty;

This is something I want to get right – so I’ve been doing plenty of research trying to work out how best to proceed. There are so many conflicting forum posts detailing the ins and outs of the jailbreaking process and woeful tales of unsuccessful attempts I wanted to make sure I understood and was following as reliable advice as possible – and writing this post is actually part of that process – and possibly of use to others too.

I reckon the Dev-Team blog is the definitive source for jailbreaking news, information and methodology – and so I’ve been reading – and re-reading – their latest posts… although the “iPhone 3G S hacker’s flow chart” did give me a good overview – suggesting the following options for my:
non-jailbroken and/or unlocked iPhone 3GS with 3.1.2 firmware but no ECID SHSH on file – either locally or with Cydia:

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Having checked my iBoot version it’s the older iBoot-359.3 – so I can use either PwnageTool or blackra1n (+ more details at geohot’s blog) and I avoid the ‘tethered jailbreak’ limitations of the newer iBoot version – which is nice. I probably wouldn’t have bothered if I had to use blackra1n every time I needed to reboot my iPhone or the battery went flat.

Since my recent 3.1.2. firmware upgrade via iTunes has also updated my device’s baseband to 05.11.07 if I want to unlock I’ll have to use blacksn0w at the moment.

So which tool to use? Evidently the two processes take different approaches – blackra1n is an ‘after the fact’ jailbreak – iTunes is not involved and the iTunesHelper app needs to be killed during the jailbreaking process – while PwnageTool creates a jailbroken custom .ipsw – and while neither iTunes nor the iTunesHelper app should be running during this part of the process iTunes is used to ‘restore’ the iPhone using this custom .ipsw and then sync with the backup made at the outset to get the phone back to where it started.. This post kinda compares the two for info.

While jailbreaking with blackra1n (and an alternative iHackintosh tutorial) does seem to be very quick and straightforward I decided to use PwnageTool – the longstanding solution from the Dev-Team – and I reckon this is one of the better tutorials I’ve found to this end.

I’m on O2-UK – so I chose “Yes” when asked “Do you have an iPhone 3G(S) contract that would activate normally through iTunes?” – and it all went without a hitch and exactly as described (though a disk image – didn’t quite catch the name – was mounted, requested an admin password and was then unmounted during the Pwning which wasn’t mentioned and made me raise an eyebrow?)

iTunes App manager was its usual crap self on the initial backup – forgetting those specific Apps I have on the iPhone and selecting all the Apps in my iTunes repository (I’ve worked out how to sort this since)… and the whole process took a fair amount of time – a good 20-30 minutes in all – but the result is my iPhone exactly as I started but jailbroken and with Cydia and Icy installed.

My O2-UK Carrier name is listed and I can see a signal bar and I can make calls and pick up visual voicemail… and I’ve already received a text and MMS telling me picture messaging needs to be and subsequently has been set up… and my Wi-Fi is working… wicked! Let the fun begin 😉

As an additional note all this googling also led me to several blogs I really wish I’d found months ago – iClarified, iHackintosh and Redmond Pie – which provided many of the guides, tutorials and links for much of ‘gains’ listed above – and additional useful software, tips and advice including:

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