The Apple App Store boasts an inventory of over 350,000 apps. You can find anything from word games to programs that turn your phone into a flashlight. Still, a large number of people want to do more with their iPhones than what is allowed by Apple. To do so, they hack 'em to run programs not authorized by the Cupertino, Calif. company—an action popularly known as jailbreaking.
It's gotten so popular, in fact, that college senior Kevin Lee is able to pocket $50,000 a year by jailbreaking iPhones for those not tech savvy enough to do it for themselves. Yes, seriously. WTF, right?
Lee told The Washington Post that he would post an ad on Craigslist with the headline: "Get Your iPhone Jailbroken Today" and get 30 to 40 requests from people to jailbreak their phones to run unofficial apps or new screen designs, and to "unlock" their phones so they can operate on different wireless networks.
And it's not illegal. Last year, Congress added an exception to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that essentially made it legal for people to jailbreak their Apple iPhones. The act of jailbreaking has gotten much easier thanks to programs like PwnageTool made by the iPhone Dev-Team.
The Washington Post also spoke with Jay Freeman, the founder of Cydia, the largest unofficial iPhone app store. According to Freeman, his company rakes in $250,000 a year from selling apps on the digital black-market.
Even Toyota has gotten in on the jailbreak party. The automaker made a free app promoting its Scion brand that was available only in the Cydia app store. After requests from Apple, Toyota removed the app from the store.
As is it stands, jailbreaking is still the domain of the technologically inclined. The majority users are quite content using the device the way Steve Jobs intended. However, as the iPhone user base expands, the market for unofficial apps and jailbreaking solutions will also continue to grow.