Where does a wayward app go after being rejected by the Apple? Sometimes it valiantly tries to meet Apple’s approval, constantly guessing Apple’s whim and fancy. Other times, a developer doesn’t even try. They know their app won’t get approved and ignore the App Store entirely.
Where do these rogue apps go? On jailbroken phones everywhere! Of course, jailbreaking is not without some serious risks and security holes. While there may be some bad apples on jailbroken phones, here are the plums I’ve picked out of Cydia. Apple should take note of some of these features and incorporate them in the next version of the iPhone software. Of course I’ve only heard about these apps from friends. I’d never dream of jailbreaking my iPhone…
GV Mobile (Free)
GV Mobile lets you easily make outgoing phone calls from Google Voice, listen to Google Voice voicemails, and send and receive SMS messages. While most Google Voice functionality is available from the website in Safari, having a native app makes using Google Voice much easier. This is the app that’s so much in demand, it inspired an FCC inquiry.
SBSettings places many common iPhone settings, such as toggling Wi-Fi, Airplane mode, and 3G a single tap away, no matter what you are doing on the phone. Why should it take six taps to turn off Bluetooth? It also makes it easy to hide the icons for built-in apps that you never use, freeing up space on your iPhone screen (does anyone really use the Stocks app?)
Rotation Inhibitor (Free)
With all respect to Dead or Alive, sometimes you don’t spin me right round baby right round. Anyone who has tried to use Safari on his iPhone while laying down in bed knows the frustration of having the iPhone’s screen rotation go crazy, switching back and forth repeatedly. Rotation Inhibitor does one thing: it locks the screen into your preferred orientation and prevents the screen from rotating when using Apple’s built-in apps, like Safari and Mail. Finally, you can surf in peace when you are lounging on the couch!
QuickReply for SMS ($2.99, Cydia store)
The way the iPhone currently works, when you receive an SMS message, you can view the message but not reply without quitting what you are doing and opening the SMS app. QuickReply for SMS allows you to reply to incoming SMS messages from anywhere on the iPhone without switching apps. A small “Reply” button is added to the normal SMS message window; tap it, type your reply, and send! This is an elegant and amazing time-saver for anyone who frequently uses text messaging.
3g Unrestrictor ($2.99, Cydia store)
The iPhone OS restricts you from doing many tasks when you are on the 3G network, including download apps or podcasts larger than 10MB, as well as using many IP telephony or streaming video apps. 3G Unrestrictor essentially “fools” the iPhone into thinking it is on a Wi-Fi network, even when it is not, allowing Wi-Fi restricted functionality to operate normally. Of course, 3G is slower than Wi-Fi, so you can’t expect identical performance, but the key is that this app gives you the choice.
ToneFX ($4.99, Cydia store)
The iPhone lets you pick your own ringtone, but you are not permitted to customize the sounds for things like SMS message received, new mail message, and new voicemail message. This has always struck me as an odd omission since even the cheapest throwaway cell phone lets users customize these sounds! Riding to the rescue is ToneFX, which has a great GUI allowing you to customize every sound the iPhone makes. Finally, you won’t be the one reaching into your pocket when you hear the iPhone SMS sound because yours will be different.
Winterboard is the premier iPhone skinning application, allowing you to customize the look and feel of the iPhone. Winterboard can be used to change iPhone icons for installed apps, as well as changing the look of the lock screen, app screens, dock, and more. You can choose from hundreds of tasteful and not-so-tasteful themes contributed by designers around the world, or if you are technically inclined and artistic, try your own hand at making themes.
AutoSilent ($2.99, Cydia store)
AutoSilent is like an intelligent secretary for your iPhone who will automatically place your phone into silent mode when you want it to. AutoSilent integrates with your calendar and knows to place the phone into silent mode during meetings. You can also set repeating “do not disturb” periods, for example, from 10PM to 8AM, guaranteeing you won’t get woken up by a wrong number in the middle of the night. AutoSilent also has selective silencing, for example it can turn off SMS sounds, but allow phone calls to ring through. This is my vote for the next feature to be blessed by Apple.
Intelliscreen ($9.99, Intelliborn)
Intelliscreen makes your iPhone lock screen useful, by displaying various pieces of information that you choose, such as forthcoming appointments, weather forecasts, and incoming email messages. It can also display a complete missed call list. These are great enhancements over Apple’s use of the lock screen, which is limited to showing a single missed phone call or incoming message. Intelliscreen gives you the ability to quickly glance at all your important information with a single tap and without unlocking your phone. Rumor has it this will be in the next iPhone OS.
Inspell ($3.99, Cydia store)
Inspell provides the same type of “inline” spell checking that you are familiar with from the Mac OS. As you type, misspelled words are highlighted with a red underline; tapping on the misspelled word brings up a menu with suggested corrections. It works seamlessly and feels like something that is built in to the phone’s OS, and is a great enhancement to the normal suggestive typing. As a bonus, you can edit the dictionary, making is easy to add custom terms — a feature Apple’s built-in suggestive typing doesn’t offer.
I hear from friends that these rogue apps make an iPhone a lot more useful and fun to use then it was without them. Jailbreaking the iPhone isn’t something every iPhone user will want to do, but for those who take the jump, there are some really cool apps out there. Have you jailbroken your iPhone? If so, what are your favorite unofficial apps?