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Jailbroken iPhone App Review

October 5, 2008

So I got brave and jailbroke (?) my iPhone. QuickPwn was easy, but I got into a reboot cycle that may have either been caused by a) too many apps or b) iTunes being open. (I got bitten by the too-many-apps (4 pages) issue in 2.0 — if you have lots, you may want to google around first.)

A couple of interesting jailbreaking observations:

  • Cydia rocks. Who knew package management could be so beautiful?
  • Backgrounder is cool, but I quickly lose track of what I have running. If you install MobileTerminal you can run ‘top’ to see what’s up. You press and hold the home key to enable background mode for an app. (It took me a little while to figure out that when I went back to a backgrounded app, pressing and holding turns *off* backgrounding. Just tap normally to keep it backgrounded.)
  • VLC is available from zodTTD.com — he’s the guy who did the Gameboy and many other emulators. If you make a $5 donation you get access. It’s buggy, but it works. I’ve streamed .asx windows media files to my phone. The audio is a little choppy and the pitch is off, but it’s a way to get access to those .wav/.asx/.wmv files (i.e. streaming sports, specifically hockey, specifically the Canucks.  I hate .asx. And VLC will let me hate it for listening to the Canucks lose.  Lovely.)
  • Cycorder does video *really* well. Respectable quality and framerate, even at night, and compression for reasonable file size. You need to enable ssh and SFTP the files out though.
  • Qik streams video *live* from your phone in real time — very impressive. Be careful, as the default setting is public meaning the entire world can see your clips. You can tap the screen to make a video private; a group can be defined on the web site, but I don’t see a way to associate a video with a group, so it’s all or nothing right now. But it’s a pretty remarkable tool, both in terms of quality and ease of use. I was getting about a 5 seconds latency in the live video.
  • Snapture is a Camera replacement, lots more features including 3x digital zoom, rapid-fire picture mode, and multiple ways to take pictures including tapping on the screen and the volume button. Ad-driven free mode and a paid mode I haven’t tried. A little flaky though, frozen on me a couple of times.
  • BossPrefs — all sorts of handy shortcuts for system settings, including individual Edge, 3G and WiFi toggles. (Be careful of the “SSH on Reboot Always” setting if you haven’t changed your root password, as anyone could get in (type ‘passwd’ in MobileTerminal…) No ‘Location’ toggle though.
  • I really wanted to try IntelliScreen — it displays new mail and calendar entries on the lock screen like SMS — but it caused *big* problems with Mail (as in not checking it after 3 minutes and causing it to crash). But I’ve heard other good reports so maybe it was just me.
  • Podcaster, one of my favorite apps (I love podcasts but *hate* syncing to get them) is available if you didn’t manage to grab the App store version.

The verdict?  Burrito Justice SERVED.

All in all, lots of interesting apps, and the standard unix goodness. The revenue models are challenging — lots of ad driven ones, and some questionable (effectively charging for VLC — Burrito Justice is torn on this one), but such is the nefarious underbelly of the jailbreak scene.  But a good outlet to keep Apple honest.

On a separate note, the Fring app (not jailbroken any longer) seems a solid VOIP and mobile IM client. Unsurprisingly, VOIP only works over wifi. I’ve only tried Fring-to-Fring calls — good quality, though I’ve heard mixed reviews re Skype. Good address book integration, but apparently some issues with number formatting (+1, etc).  Will try my European friends and see how it behaves.

Solid multi-protocol IM performance, though no indication of which service someone is on, and no bundling of friends with multiple IM addresses a la Adium.

Best of all, Fring can receive alerts in the background, and receive calls after the iPhone has gone to sleep! It seems it was designed for this back when it was a jailbroken app. The only problem is you have to slide over to the icon to answer the call. (Fring has what are probably the best alert sounds I have yet heard on any device. The ring sound is simply hysterical — it would be disturbing in that good kind of way during meetings.)

All I need now is the iPhone version of SlingPlayer and I will be satisfied.

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