Monday, 2 February 2009

Jailbroken iPhone 3G - essential apps

No activity here for a month, and then two posts in one day! What's going on? Well I've been finding out lots of cool things about the iPhone and I have to tell people.

I've got an iPhone 3G, I've had it for a while now. It's a great phone in so many ways, but it lacks some pretty unforgivable things, I've mentioned some of them here in previous posts. However, thanks to the wonders of the iPhone jailbreak these shortcoming can be fixed. That is if you are prepared to hack your phone with a little utility.

Just thought I'd post some of the really useful apps you can get on a jailbroken iPhone which lets it do the stuff you would expect it to out of the box. But also discover some of the cool things you can do to enhance the iPhone even more.

First of all though, you need to get your iPhone jailbroken. This really couldn't be any simpler, there are a couple of options but by far the easiest is QuickPwn. All you have to do is update your iPhone to the latest firmware from iTunes, then connect your phone up and run the QuickPwn application on your PC or mac. It gives clear instructions on what you need to do and it really is so simple and painless. You can download the latest version of QuickPwn here:

I'm not going to give you a full step-by-step guide, it's all pretty self explanatory anyway and there are already hundreds of people out there who have done it before. If you're really confused just do a Google search!

Right, so I'm going to assume your phone is now jailbroken and you are free from Apple's closed world. The first thing you want to do is check out a new application installed on your phone called Cydia. It's basically a package installer/manager for the iPhone. A bit like the App Store, but consists of unofficial applications which are not approved by Apple. Most are completely free, but some require you to purchase a key to fully unlock them once installed.

You'll probably have to install some essential upgrades if it's the first time you've run it, so go ahead and do that first. To learn how to use Cydia I recommend this tutorial. When you've got the basic idea take a look below at my suggestions for what's essential for you to install from Cydia to get the most from you iPhone.

The first thing has to be WinterBoard. This allows you to theme your iPhone, from something as simple as adding a customised wallpaper to your iPhones menu (called the Springboard). To a full blown theme changing the icons, sounds, keyboard, clock, battery indicator etc... According to Cydia there are currently 673 items compatible with Springboard that you can download as well as 91 different battery icons, 27 keyboard layouts, 94 lockscreens, 44 sound themes, 103 system themes and much more besides!

For example, don't like the way you have to slide your finger to unlock the iPhone? No problem, just install "A Better Tap to Unlock". It will let you unlock your phone with a tap on the screen. There are so many customisations you can make!

Next on my list is ToneFXs. It lets you change your ringtone easily, but also lets you set sounds for new sms messages, Voicemail, email, calendar alerts, keyboard clicks, photo shutter, lock & unlock sound, charging sound. Check out this rather long video of ToneFXs in action. Can't say I like his choice of sounds, but that's the point, you can have whatever you like!

My next tip is BossPrefs which gives you quick access to turn on or off, 3G, Edge, Wifi, Bluetooth and email. It also gives you access to power options to respring the iPhone, reboot or power off. This can be very handy if you have a problem!

Other cool apps include LiveClock (used to be called LiveTime) which turns your clock icon into a real clock that actually shows the correct time. WeatherIcon, that means your weather icon will show the current weather instead of a sunny 73 degrees all the time. hClipboard that adds a copy & paste capability to your keyboard!

LockCalendar, which puts up to ten upcoming events in your calendar on the Lock screen. This is so useful and was a huge oversight by Apple!

There is also a selection of games available ranging from a Pacman style rip-off called "Macman", to a port of DOOM & Quake, emulators for the NES and Sega Genesis (MegaDrive), a MAME app and more besides.

To sum up, jailbreaking an iPhone really does open up a whole new world of possibilities! I could never go back to a generic firmware now, I've seen the light. Give it a try, but make sure you know what you're doing first. I'd hate you to destroy your precious phone!

EDIT: How could I possibly forget what is almost certainly the best app for a jailbroken iPhone. It's called Cycorder and it gives your iPhone video recording capability. It's truly amazing, the video quality is superb with almost no compression. It captures video at 384x288 which is a 4x3 aspect ratio at 15fps, although this will drop to 6fps in low light conditions. It sound like that might be bad, but trust me. The low frame rate means that the shutter is open longer allowing more light in per frame. This actually allows Cycorder to perform better in low light conditions than many other camera phones because you can actually see stuff... albeit slightly jerky, but in my opinion, that's better than not seeing anything at all!

Take a look at this demo of Cycorder which was actually recorded on another iPhone using the Cycorder app. Video quality looks great, sound is clear, the whole package is very well done.

UPDATE: There's now a follow up post to this article on my blog - More essential apps for a Jailbroken iPhone