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.
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
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 modmyi.com.
point to a mainstreaming of the jailbroken iPhone.
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."
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.
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.
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."
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."
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
takeaway? Grohman: "I made more money off of themes than my day job."