Print 26 comment(s) - last by callmeroy.. on Apr 12 at 11:30 AM

Out of a job? Make $50k jailbreaking iPhones!

Earlier in the week, we reported that a jailbreak for iOS 4.3.1 had become available, and we did so without much fanfare. But yesterday, a report by The Washington Post and Bloomberg Business added a little oomph to the narrative by reporting just how lucrative the business of jailbreaking iPhones has become.

One source, a George Mason University senior named Kevin Lee, claims that he makes about $50,000 a year thanks to his jailbreaking skills and a Craigslist ad that promotes them. "To be honest, when I first started, I did it for my friends, myself, but it has snowballed from there," Lee told The Post & Bloomberg. "I was getting five to 10 customers a week, now it’s 30 to 40. I just had one customer from the Mongolian embassy who was moving to the capital of Mongolia, and he wanted to use the iPhone there."

Cydia, the most popular jailbreak app store, rakes in about $10 million a year in revenue and boasts 4.5 million weekly active users. Toyota even offered a free, official program on Cydia that gives the jailbroken iPhone a Scion sedan theme. Toyota also advertises on the jailbreaking website

All signs point to a mainstreaming of the jailbroken iPhone.

According to the report, three-year-old Cydia now earns about $250,000 in after-tax profit annually, most of which is ostensibly collected by its 29-year-old founder and operator, Jay Freeman. "The whole point is to fight against the corporate overlord," Freeman said in the report. "This is grass-roots movement, and that’s what makes Cydia so interesting. Apple is this ivory tower, a controlled experience, and the thing that really bought people into jailbreaking is that it makes the experience theirs."

For a long time, Apple contended that unlocking and jailbreaking an iPhone is illegal under the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), claiming that it supports all kinds of gangs, drug dealing, and terrorism. But that changed when the Library of Congress added this little disclaimer to the DMCA last year:

Computer programs that enable wireless telephone handsets to execute software applications, where circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of enabling interoperability of such applications, when they have been lawfully obtained, with computer programs on the telephone handset. 

Apple's reaction was that while it may be legal to jailbreak your iPhone, it still voids your warranty -- only because Apple really cares about your user experience.

But there are those that believe that even Cydia has gotten too big for its britches. Take Gabriel Faucon, the owner of the new jailbreak store Themeit. "Once [Freeman] heard about Themeit, he wrote me a super long e-mail telling me not to do it, that it was going to break up the jailbreak community," Faucon said in the report. "There’s a lot of money involved, and he is trying to pass himself off as the little guy communist trying to save the world."

When a competitor, Rock Your Phone, threatened Cydia’s market share, it simply gobbled up the rival. Rock Your Phone's owner, Mario Ciabarra, also runs a jailbreak app design firm whose products -- under the terms of the merger -- Freeman must now promote on Cydia's homepage, and Ciabarra doesn't have to split his sales with Freeman. "Sometimes, eliminating competition may not be that great, but the reality is that we didn’t compete on prices, but on attracting audiences," Ciabarra, 33, said in the report. "With the audience, you get the money. And I saw an exit strategy and I wanted to focus on developing." 

Meanwhile, scores of others are making smaller, still respectable amounts. Rob Grohman makes about $50,000 a year repairing computers at a health insurance company as his day job. In his off-hours, he raked in a cool $100,000 over the last two years (mostly in 2010, though) developing a handful of paid jailbroken iPhone themes.

The takeaway? Grohman: "I made more money off of themes than my day job."

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Gotta love idiot consumers...
By quiksilvr on 4/8/11, Rating: 0
RE: Gotta love idiot consumers...
By Camikazi on 4/8/2011 9:37:36 AM , Rating: 3
There are easy ways to do a lot of things, but most consumers pay to NOT have to do it themselves, that is really what makes a lot of businesses work. If everyone started doing things themselves instead of paying others a lot of businesses would fail.

RE: Gotta love idiot consumers...
By quiksilvr on 4/8/11, Rating: 0
RE: Gotta love idiot consumers...
By MastermindX on 4/8/2011 3:58:33 PM , Rating: 5
No, your point is that you are just as idiotic.

You know, people buying this stuff might KNOW how to do it, but don't want to spend the time to do it! How much time it takes for example to make a theme? 3 hours maybe? How much do they sell for? $1?

So you are saying someone who's making a theme for himself is smart? Me, I see someone who's willing to work at a $0.33 hourly wage. (Which I see as pretty idiotic).

To make it appealing to me, it would need to be something that can be done under 3 minutes. I really doubt it can be done that fast.

RE: Gotta love idiot consumers...
By vol7ron on 4/9/2011 11:40:48 AM , Rating: 2

You should add... that's where businesses come in. A term called specialization, is what has enabled people and companies to pick a task or set of tasks and refine the practice so they are efficient enough to be profitable.

Instead of spending 3 hours on making the theme, they might spend 13 in designing a template, which would enable them to build other themes in 2-3 minutes.

Point is, consumers are not idiots for consuming. The fact that they consume helps to further technology (physical and logical).

RE: Gotta love idiot consumers...
By callmeroy on 4/12/2011 11:21:58 AM , Rating: 2

Don't be angry because someone had the skills and/or knowledge to do something, they saw an opportunity to take advantage of said skills/knowledge and they cashed in on it. I get jealous / envious sometimes -- like look at Mark simple of a concept is facebook? Who couldn't have thought of that idea? --- well he's the youngest billionaire in the world right now because of it.

As for businesses -- convenience is probably the largest reason why we pay anyone to do things for us....if you did all your own repairs for everything in your house , your car, installed everything on your own no matter what for anything you ever bought, configured everything on your own etc. -- sure you'll save money, but you also used up a lot of your "free" time too when others could have done it for you.

But then my philosophy on money would probably blow most people's minds -- I fully know our time on earth is limited and as such material things mean little to me. However my time is very valuable. Once we are dead saving money doesn't really mean anything you know?


By Camikazi on 4/9/2011 4:41:15 PM , Rating: 2
They are not idiots, they know they can do it but they PREFER not to find instructions and do it themselves. If they have the money and rather not deal with it why not pay others to do it?

RE: Gotta love idiot consumers...
By The Raven on 4/8/2011 10:36:41 AM , Rating: 2
If only they knew there are easy, cheap (and free) ways to do this.

You mean like people who eat at restarants?

What a bunch of fools. It is quick, cheap and easy to eat at home.

- Judgey McJudgerpants -


RE: Gotta love idiot consumers...
By Flunk on 4/8/2011 11:43:04 AM , Rating: 2
That's a ridiculous comparison. You can't eat for nothing using only a quick internet search.

But yes, you can save lots of money by eating at home. If you have money problems then you are pretty stupid eating at restaurants.

RE: Gotta love idiot consumers...
By Skelum on 4/8/2011 1:57:50 PM , Rating: 3
Not really ridiculous...

For common users, googling a jailbreak tool, knowing which one is better, which one applies to their firmware, how to upgrade after a jail break, how to restore a backup and on and on and on...

Finding is easy, applying not so hard, maintaining not so easy for most...

RE: Gotta love idiot consumers...
By vol7ron on 4/9/2011 11:44:51 AM , Rating: 2
It depends on what you're comparing. There is a price of time and travel. There is also the additional cost (profit) that the restaurant makes, whereas if you could cook the same meal, it would be much cheaper to do it yourself.

It may be a weak comparison, but its still valid, and far from ridiculous.

By deputc26 on 4/8/2011 12:35:55 PM , Rating: 2
Great comparison

RE: Gotta love idiot consumers...
By mforce on 4/8/2011 6:07:34 PM , Rating: 2
Actually you're only partly right here. You are right in that idiot and wealthy consumers are the best way to make money. Someone once said that best way to make money is to profit from people's stupidity and their vices.
Still some people just don't know how to do it, don't have the technical background needed and stuff which is why they pay for it. Some simply don't want to bother, they pay and it just works. I might consider it stupid too to pay for something like this but I'd even consider paying for an iPhone 4 stupid. In the end though who are we to judge, some banks and traders make money out of thin air, at least this guy is actually paid for doing something.
The problem though I think is that some people have money to spend on such crap while others barely make a living in some countries. Then again life's not fair, it never was and probably never will be.

By MechanicalTechie on 4/10/2011 8:17:29 PM , Rating: 2
Serves them right I say, if your stupid enough to buy a product that limits what you can use it for then i say make it illegal to jail break it, maybe that will teach them a lesson and to stop giving money to companies that do that... Stupid Apple fan boys!!!!

I love this line...
By masamasa on 4/8/2011 10:53:15 AM , Rating: 3
"Apple's reaction was that while it may be legal to jailbreak your iPhone, it still voids your warranty -- only because Apple really cares about your user experience."

Long live the communist regime of Apple!


RE: I love this line...
By aegisofrime on 4/8/2011 11:27:23 AM , Rating: 2
Nothing could be further from the truth.

It has gotten to the point whereby I will consider the unjailbroken iPhone unusable. It's because two apps make my life a lot easier: BiteSMS and SBSettings. BiteSMS allows me to reply SMSes right away, instead of having to switch out of whatever I may be doing at the moment, and going into the SMS app. Sbsettings is a handy control panel activated by swiping the status bar, that allows me to toggle Wifi et al. on and off, without going into settings. I believe Android has this by default.

Without these two apps and jailbreaking, the user experience is much worse. Apple, you are a bunch of liars.

RE: I love this line...
By jabber on 4/10/2011 6:20:47 AM , Rating: 2
As Peter Griffin would say...


Do you have a comment Steve?
By The Raven on 4/8/2011 9:24:28 AM , Rating: 1
"Yeah, you can sell what you want, where you want... just don't call it an app store!"

RE: Do you have a comment Steve?
By amanojaku on 4/8/2011 9:37:59 AM , Rating: 3
More like "you can sell what you want, where you want, but I'll try to put you out of business if I don't get my 30%".

By The Raven on 4/8/2011 10:21:59 AM , Rating: 2
Oh and no scantily/un clad women... unless you are Sports Illustrated or Playboy!

Does anyone else find it ammusing . . .
By Rike on 4/10/2011 11:53:22 PM , Rating: 2
. . . that a guy named Freeman is saving the world while sticking it to our benefactors?

By callmeroy on 4/12/2011 11:30:43 AM , Rating: 2

Great game....

By SunAngel on 4/8/2011 9:24:42 AM , Rating: 2
"...little guy communist..."

but with large capitalist balls. someone forgot to write that part.

Apple's Closed System...
By radium69 on 4/8/2011 8:22:03 PM , Rating: 2
All this hassle for a "theme".
Every other phone has themes, wallpapers, icons etc.
It's not it has been there just now. It goes all the way back to the old days. The "old" nokia's even had different wallpapers, and "midi" ringtones.

Apple just needs to get over this crap, and so do the firm apple zombies...

It is a bloody phone, and I want to use it MY way.
If Microsoft would ban, different backgrounds on an OS it would be sued to infinity...

this makes me sad...

By Iaiken on 4/9/2011 1:26:17 AM , Rating: 2
iPhone Jailbreaking iPhones Has Become Big Business

This message was brought to you by the Department of Redundancy Departments.

By vol7ron on 4/9/2011 11:49:29 AM , Rating: 2
If I were Jay Freeman I would have gone the other way.

Instead of "sticking it to Apple", I would give Apple credit for releasing a product that gave him an opportunity to make money and identify that Jailbreaking is not for everyone.

He doesn't have to believe it, but the last thing that I would want is Apple lawyers to start knocking on my door because I'm making money off one of their products, which they could be making. Everyone knows how greedy Apple is.

Jay needs to higher a PR staff member.

"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home

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