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What you need to know about rooting and jailbreaking

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On tech forums and online media, you read all the time about how only rooting or jailbreaking can unlock the true power of your smartphone, because supposedly the manufacturers artificially restrict what the devices can do. We tell you what it’s all about.

Privacy guidebook

What is rooting, actually? How do jailbreaks work?

The manufacturers purposely seal the core of their operating systems off from users. That goes for both Android and iOS phones. By doing this, providers hope that the cost of technical support will remain lower because users cannot make the devices unusable by configuring them incorrectly. Depending on the device, this protection for the operating system can usually be circumvented with minimal or major effort. Instructions on how to do it can very quickly be found online. To manipulate the device, you need a computer, special software, and a USB cable. 

Illustration "Was Sie über „Rooten“ und „Jailbreaks“ wissen sollten"

Rooting means that the user gains access to all parts of the system, including those that the manufacturer protected from the users. The term itself comes from the world of the Linux operating system, which designates an especially privileged user who can also change system components. 

Jailbreak is used more often in the world of Apple computers and refers to breaching system boundaries in iOS. 

What options you get with rooting and jailbreaks

Once you have full access to your smartphone, you can reach many areas that otherwise would be locked:

  • For example, you can save another app store, i.e. you can purchase programs not available in that form either from Google or Apple. 
  • You can run an entirely different Android version on your smartphone
  • or change the way your device behaves in a network.

Exercise care when rooting and jailbreaking

The device manufacturers reserve the right to exclude modified devices from warranties and guarantees. If you want to experiment, it is better to use a discarded smartphone rather than the device you use every day – and for good reason. If you make an error while working on the operating system or suddenly lose power, it can happen that the device will no longer start. 

Weigh up the potential risks

If your old device no longer works properly or is simply too slow, there is nothing wrong with experimenting with jailbreaking or rooting. You should still be aware of the potential risks.

  • After a jailbreak, the risk that a user’s iPhone will be infected with malware increases. Completely different applications are available, but they have not been verified by Apple. 
  • Root access in Android removes a key security mechanism in the system. This is known as sandboxing. Simply put, this means that every app in the protected area works without being able to access the data in another app. If the Notes program is running, it cannot access the online banking app that was just opened. That is why many banking apps check right after starting whether they are running in a root environment, and then stop it from running any further. 
  • Developers of security-sensitive apps (such as those for online banking) state in their terms of use that they are not liable for errors and data loss in root environments.

Further reading

FAQ