Are We On The Cusp Of A Jailbroken App Revolution?

The DMCA ruling won’t change things for the average iPhone user — the main difference being that jailbreakers now can’t be sued by Apple successfully under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Apple will continue their attempts to block the jailbroken phones with every iOS update and jailbreakers will keep getting more and more savvy, like a vicious cycle of digital cat and mouse.

Jay Freeman, who runs Cydia, what many in the industry refer to as the “Jailbroken App Store,” posits that what today’s ruling did change was awareness; “More people will jailbreak their phones. Now that they think it’s legal. [Emphasis mine]. When asked whether the ruling had increased traffic to his site, Freeman bemoaned that today’s stats were unfortunately not available.

Pinch Analytics holds that 8-9% of iPhones are jailbroken (6 million devices) which square with the 6 million devices that are active users of Cydia. (On a side note: Freeman says that 7 of those are iPhone 4s, all belonging to developers). Cydia’s most popular products are related to Wifi tethering, with names like Wifi Sync and MyWi. One user said that even though his jailbroken iPhone had eventually bricked up, it was worth it for the tethering functionality, which the iPhone 4 still does not have. And Freeman takes a 30% cut of all the proceeds, just the like the actual app store.

Well, how many apps are in Cydia?

Freeman’s official answer is 4 apps (including Google Voice Mobile and Grooveshark) with thousands of “aftermarket mods” (as opposed to 225,000+ in the Apple Store) enabling jailbroken phone users to accomplish stuff like background application management, the ability to send a Twitter message by touching the status bar, and maybe even one day the ability to make a call that automatically uses Google Voice.

Freeman stubbornly refuses to call Cydia an app store:

A lot of people have confusion over the usage of the term “app” — Apple sells apps, but also rejects apps like Google Voice. The main point of Cydia is aftermarket modifications — like on a car — sometimes you need to bypass car computer system protections to modify the car. You can also go to places and get something as simple as a racing stripe. Changing the wallpaper on your phone is like changing the paint on your car.”

And Freeman thinks we’re on the the cusp of a jailbroken app revolution, but not directly related to today’s ruling; “As far as I know it is now and it always has been legal to jailbreak. If it wasn’t I would be receiving complaints from Apple’s lawyers.”

Admittedly, Cydia and its counterparts are to put it mildly, not break out successes. As today’s publicity will attract more developers, the jailbroken app economy of scale harbors some of the same problems faced by Apple’s app store, says Freeman, “When a developer comes to me thinking Cydia is a less restricted app store, it ends up being a very painful discussion, because I have to reject their apps.”

Photo: Hackerfriendly/Flickr