Why is Apple forcing me to Jailbreak my iPhone? - Macenstein

Why is Apple forcing me to Jailbreak my iPhone?

If there’s one thing Apple should have learned by now, it’s that it’s the little things that matter most – the small touches and attention to detail that make someone fall in love with (or out of love with) a device. And while you certainly can’t second guess what everyone on the planet will deem an important feature, there are some that should be obvious.

To me, one such obvious feature is the ability to create my own SMS alert sound effects. Apple originally tried to stop people from creating their own custom ringtones for the iPhone but eventually gave up after a while, and now, while Apple does not try to encourage it (ie, build the “make ringtone from your own files” functionality into iTunes) you can now find tutorials on how to easily get your own files to play as ringtones if your do a little Googleing.

But the same cannot be said for SMS alerts. Unfortunately, Apple has decided that only 6 “magical” sounds can be allowed to signal an incoming text message, and out of those 6, only 1 is usable, unless you work in the circus.

So what’s the deal? Why can’t we use our own music/sound effects to signal a text message? I personally just made a great Kim Possible Kimmunicator beep tone that would be PERFECT for incoming texts, but alas, my iPhone does not recognize it.

Talking down to customers

As much as I love Apple, there is a certain “we know best” vibe that often comes out of Cupertino, and users often have to suck up a lack of customization options that their non-Apple owning friends have because Apple has decided that its customers should not desire such features. With OS X, Apple has a 7-year streak of allowing virtually NO customization of their OS. Aside from being nice enough to let us change the desktop picture, there are no themes or easy ways to customize Mac OS X by default, and aside from a few die-hard individualists, for the most part people have accepted this with only a small amount of complaining. However, the personal computer and operating system are 2 fields Apple helped invent, and their rigid hold on design is something that customers have grown up with over the years. But this is not the case with the long-established mobile phone market.

People’s mobile phones are an extension of themselves รขโ‚ฌโ€œ a way to express themselves. And since 98% of the people on Earth are annoying, they WANT to be able to make their ringtones as annoying as possible. They get off on getting a phone call in a crowded theater and hearing “I Touch Myself” go off, and hearing people snicker at their brilliant choice of song.

I can understand Apple thinking “My god, if “Barbie Girl” goes off in a crowded room and people see that person is holding an iPhone, it will look bad for us”, but in reality, it only makes the user look like a tool, not Apple. In fact, by locking us out of the ability to express how annoying we are, Apple is making themselves look like the tools we want to be.

And yes, since I am a tool, and I want Kim Possible fans to snicker when I get a text message, I will be jailbreaking my iPhone, as it appears to be the only way to get my custom SMS alert sound going, and it is sad, really. In a perfect world, there would be no need for Jailbreaking. Apple should have spent the last year looking at the features that people were so desperate to add to their iPhones that they would risk “bricking” a $600 device by Jailbreaking it, and made sure all those features were incorporated into the 2.0 software.

But they didn’t…. and now I am forced to follow these steps (scroll to the bottom where it says how to replace system sounds) to make my iPhone Kimmunicator a reality.

39 Responses to “Why is Apple forcing me to Jailbreak my iPhone?”
  1. Viswakarma says:

    Nobody is forcing you to Jailbreak an iPhone!!! Don’t put the blame on Apple!!!

    May be you need a phone from Microsoft which allows you and everybody else jailbreak and infect your phone the way Windows allows everybody to infect tour PC!!!

  2. Sean says:

    Thanks for the info. I have been bothered by the SMS tones for a while as I use my phone for work and our systems send us SMS messages when something breaks…the problem is that the SMS tones are way too short and not nearly loud enough to wake me up.

  3. Louis Wheeler says:

    By your logic, you must rape girls because you can’t get a date. You must rob banks because you can’t hold a steady job.

    You have NEEDS!!! You have a right to have them fullfilled. You have a right to break any contract that you have with other people. Other people’s rights are meaningless.

    How old are you? You sound like you are twelve.

  4. Wow Louis,
    Well, while I personally think allowing us to customize the iPhone ringtones but not the SMS tones listed directly under them is a little different than raping people, I will admit to having not matured much past a 12-year old, so perhaps you’re on to something.

    -The Doc

  5. dizzy says:

    I don’t see how changing sound effects on the phone would… “infect your phone the way Windows allows everybody to infect your PC!!!”

    I am definitely not a “mac guy”…I own an iPod (which was a gift) and a iPhone 3g. I plan on getting a macbook when the new ones come out so I can develop iPhone apps.

    The reason I’m not a mac guy is stuff like this article is pointing out. I understand opening up can also open you up to negatives (viruses, malicious apps, etc.), but it’s great for flexibility (MS world where you can build your own PCs and install whatever you want, etc). And then you have Apple which is too closed off (why can’t we meet in the middle apple?)!!!

    I agree with this article that people have just accepted it over the years as a trade off for a good product, but now that they have gone into the new mobile world this “closed offishness” is going to be more apparent. It’s really sad too because apple is really good at what they do. I would go as far to say they have the best UIs in any product they develop, but I feel when thinking about purchasing an apple product I have to decide whether the UI outweighs the restrictions. So far the iPhone and iPod it has been a fair trade off, but can be frustrating at times too. I wish I could have the best of both worlds.

  6. Lawrence says:

    I agree with Louis Wheeler. By GOD you’re going to bend Apple to your will or else. You really are more of a candidate for the Windows world where you have a zillion options trying to be all things to all people and resulting in chaos. I put your complaints right up there with the one-button-mouse diatribes we’ve heard over the decades. In stead of demanding Apple become Microsoft maybe you should just go over to the dark side and be done with it.

  7. dizzy says:

    Louis, who’s the mature one…you are the one comparing customizing a electronic device to raping people? Grow up!

  8. Argh says:


    Dr. Macenstein, you never cease to amuse me with your collective manner.

    I agree with the ‘anti-jailbrak’n’ crowd that no one is ‘forcing’ you to jailbreak. However, I believe they have been watching and learning too much from mass media and emotional illogic. Learn to discern the meaning and intent in ones communication. It will make you a better person. Pay attention to what the Dr. has ordered. It’s a simple customization request that simplifies ones life.

    In Simpler terms:

    The doctor wants meaningful grown up sms alerts!
    The doctor needs meaningful grown up sms alerts!
    The doctor would prefer OEM vs hacks for said alerts!
    The doctor will operate when necessary!

    That said, it is their 2nd gen phone/software and will get better & worse. One just has to hope it is on a faster pace than that OS they like to call Server.

  9. veggiedude says:

    Only idiots use SMS!

    At 10 cents a pop, a maximum of 740kb, it is way overpriced.

    I mean, to send 1MB worth of data via SMS would cost you $749.

  10. Sam says:

    Okay, I was going to come hear and read the article and crab back that no one’s making you jailbreak your iPhone…it’s Apple. They do what they want and build cool products and we buy ’em, even though they don’t have every feature we want right away. But then I read that you wanted to build a Kimmunicator and, well, I totally understand. Having the “Call Me, Beep Me” sound go off occasionally would be pretty cool. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Oh, and while Apple hasn’t put the “create ringtone” feature into iTunes, they have put it into GarageBand:


  11. dizzy says:

    Well they kind of have it in iTunes, but it’s only for iTunes purchased music and they charge you an extra buck to “convert” (change the file extension) it to a ringtone.

  12. Macslut says:

    I actually like that there’s something you can only do if you’re willing to jailbreak the iPhone. It’s much more cool to show off these things.

    Apple’s got a pretty good approach. They’re mostly hands off on the hackers.

  13. Brandon says:

    Here’s why I’m planning to Jailbreak mine – Broken restore functionality in iTunes. Tried to restore my phone (crashing issues) and when I did the restore function didn’t work. Lost all my data that I had stored in 3rd party apps from the appstore. No way to backup stuff besides iTunes all-in-one backup = have to jailbreak to ssh my data off to back it up.

  14. James Katt says:

    Part of Apple’s design philosophy is to remove features – enough features that what is left will work very well, simply, and elegantly for everyone but the people on the fringe – the kind of people that want to hack their computers and software.

    At Apple, to improve usability, you have to leave out a lot of baggage things.

    This is very opposite to what Microsoft does – which is to put everything including the kitchen sink into its projects.

    Features when often enough desired, can be added back in later updates. But a large enough number of people have to request this.

    If you are the only one affected, then you won’t get your wish.

    No one is forcing you to jailbreak your iPhone. If you want the kitchen sink, get Microsoft or code it yourself for Android/Linux.

    I’ll be having fun with my iPhone, thank you, while you can pull out your hair.

  15. James,

    Listen I get it, I am an Apple nut, and I am all about simplicity. However, take a look at the Sounds screen in the iPhone. Tell me how allowing you to choose more sounds in the text alert window adds any more confusion or clutter to the interface that the way the ringtones are set up directly above it?

    I am not asking for the moon here, people.

    -The Doc

  16. Alex says:

    Dr. Macenstein thank you so much for the info, I’ve always wanted to customize the SMS tones for my iphone 3g, now i know how! Thanks again!

  17. Albert says:

    I think its hilarious how fanboys will even defend the lack of a simple feature such as customization of an alert tone. It doesn’t matter if its a SMS alert or an e-mail alert or a phone call. Why shouldn’t someone be able to choose the alert they wish to get. My hearing isn’t the best in the world, and I’d prefer something that contrasted greatly from the ambient noise in the room.

  18. Michael G says:

    I actually enjoyed the posture of this article. I am glad to hear THE DOC is open to all things apple – including the world of jailbreaking. While I have not personally resorted to that yet, it is very compelling. However, I will just have to enjoy my “doo doo dee” tri-tone. If you must have features, get them.

    While the onslaught of criticism comes, these are the same users that would complain if you weren’t able to e-mail pictures from your film roll in the camera. If you didn’t have this feature, would you jailbreak? This seems to be a more plausible comparison than rapeing people or robbing banks…

  19. Viswakarma says:

    The problem with the article is its title! If only Dr. Macenstein asked for a capability to change or add new alerts to those that come with iPhone, the discussion would be more constructive rather than confrontational!!!

  20. Tom says:

    A far bigger problem is the unbearable auto correction, at least, if you are not english writing. To write german or swiss german is such a pain, because every second word is corrected.
    What I hate most about MS office (and I turn it off) is not deactivate-able on the iPhone.
    Most of my swiss friends have their iPhone jailbreaked to correct this!

  21. slashd0t says:

    I totally agree with you Doc.. This is insanity that the restrict customized tones for SMS.

    Would not add any complexity to the phone and is a simple restriction that irritates a lot of people for no real reason. (perhaps iTunes is adding a ringtone/alert purchase option sometime soon as their answer!??

    Damn them.

  22. Constable Odo says:

    I knew that headline was going to draw lightning. I see your point and I would have said the same thing, but people really get upset about that sort of phrasing.

    You weren’t forced. You took it upon yourself to make a decision that wanted more alert sounds. That’s fair enough. I think that when you bought the iPhone you knew it didn’t allow for more, but you didn’t purchase another handset that allowed for more. Any WinMo or Palm handset would have let you do anything you wanted, yet you chose the only handset that didn’t and that’s unfortunate. I don’t think you were deceived in any way or forced to choose an iPhone.

    You are very fortunate that you have the skills to customize your iPhone. Most people don’t and maybe don’t even care to. Instead of being upset with Apple, you should be grateful to the programmers that make up the utilities that allow you to get around Apple’s restrictions.

    I believe Apple doesn’t allow a lot of these things because I think the iPhone OS and firmware are not even near being finished. Apple is probably scrambling to keep it’s head above water. Maybe you’ll understand when the 1.0 versions of Android are put in phones and see what kinds of problems develop. Just give the iPhone another six to eight months. WinMo is up to 6.1 and it’s still far from perfect. The iPhone platform isn’t even two years old yet. It’s just a baby.

  23. jbzimmerman says:

    I’m still loving my iPhone original. However, I completely agree with the Dr. here, for a reason no-one seems to have mentioned – as the iPhone becomes more popular, I find myself in meetings where four or five of us have iPhones on the table, in our pockets, or even just in the shared office I sit in at work. I’d really, really like to be able to set an alert that differentiated *my* iPhone from others for the purely practical reason of not having all four of us have to grope for the device to see whose phone went off when a simple feature add here would make the dfference.

  24. MacSheikh says:

    @ Doc

    Although I i kinda agree with you on this (i sometimes miss my Power Rangers tone on my Razr), i seriously don’t see it as a give-it-to me-or-i-jailbreak kind of thing.

    Apple has to maintain a delicate balance, and i think they’re treating the jailbreak crowd pretty good. Of course, they’re obliged to at least not make it too easy for them ‘cos that’s probably part of their deal with the operators.

    So while i still think your rant is pretty lame, a pat on your back for your great response to Louis’ “rape comment.

  25. Richard says:

    Wow Doc, looks like you have sparked something here, personally, I purchased my Sony K800i because I could have animating wallpapers, copy and paste (lols, dont really use it) custom ring tones, custom SMS tones, picture caller ID, animating picture caller ID, video ring tones.. you know, all the cool stuff.
    So having this monstrously powerful iPhone 3G and being limited to basic SMS/email tones it appalling.
    I think apple will come around and allow it eventually, the problem is they have to intergrate it into iTunes as there is no way to just bluetooth a small .WAV or .MP3 to the phone and say, use that as ring tone/SMS tone etc

    But comparing it was child rape?? – are you fucken serious???


  26. Jason says:

    Holy controversial discussion batman!

    I’m an original iPhone owner. (Ok, so it’s my wife’s…) and I agree with it. Nothing wrong with changing your tone. And if you remember, when it first came out, you only had a few options for the ringtone too. Then they changed that.

    And for all of you “they aren’t forcing you” people… good job on pointing out the obvious. He knows he’s not being forced. He’s making a point. The only way to get what he believes most people would want, is to open a can of illegitimate on the iphone. And I suspect you all know that’s what he means too, so why even bring it up?

    Personally though, I’m a mac fanboy. My laptop is a mac and I love it. My linux box at work is skinned to be as close as possible to osx. And I jailbreak my phone just for the fun of it. So i’m not seeing the problem here anyway.

    My point is that just because you like macs (and in my case mostly because of the beautiful UI) doesn’t mean you can’t/shouldn’t customize them. That’s the reason we CAN jailbreak. Because somebody, somewhere, with the knowledge wanted to customize it too.

    Now that I’ve writting all that pointless drivel, I agree. Apple should probably let you customize the sms tone too.

  27. Richard Dalziel-Sharpe says:

    It was your decision to buy an iPhone, if you did not research the purchase prior to commiting yourself dont blame someone else. If ring tones are so important to you, send me your heap of Apple crap and I will be glad to use it, I hate ringtones because they are so intrusive.

  28. My favorite ringtone is “Shut up and drive.” ๐Ÿ™‚

  29. ian says:

    Why isn’t it a licensing issue? Has anyone bothered to think of that? Lots of phones come locked from the carrier to not allow custom ringtones, or to force you to buy through them. I had to hack my old SE phone from Cingular so I could use custom ringtones.

    Maybe Apple isn’t enabling it because they don’t want to deal with a messy contract from AT&T telling you what you can and can’t use as an SMS alert or ringtone. It’s not like there isn’t a history of the phone companies trying to nickel and dime people for everything already.

  30. Greg says:

    man I love your article.
    I don’t expect much from my iphone in the sense of ring tones and what not. But they should really give us something to work with!

    I swear I am jail breaking mine in a minute JUST because of the SMS tones.. they should sell SMS tones on itunes.. even at $1.99 I would buy them.. heck, even at $2.99 I would if it meant I could have something different than tritone.. and that also means not having to use the other default tones they offer!

  31. milz says:


    i think complaining about a phone is pretty childish, but its not just a phone huh?
    its an iPhone!

    yeah i would like different SMS alerts as well but i dont want to jailbreak it, so meh… i guess ill wait…

    hey whos getting the iphone life mag its supposed to have 85 iphone hidden features i wonder what they are?

  32. JROD says:

    I am jailbreaking my phone for one reason. MMS. Thanks to those closed minded, short sighted morons at apple I have to have a pen and paper to write down a “password” and “user name” log on to a “web site” enter both user name and password. Now since I had to stop what I was doing to do this (often times doesn’t work, often you have to use a home computer) just to see that my little sister sent me an image of a flashing heart saying “I love you” that she sent me on her phone she got for FREE!!!!!

    WTF!!!! Several min later if I have pen and paper on hand. Why can’t I just open the text and touch “see image” like 99.99999% of every phone sold today?

    I just jailbroke my phone and it was worth it! It opened a whole new world of custom themes, ringtones, TEXTtones, wallpaper, and cool apps all the self-righteous apple pricks can’t stand to admit some college kid whipped up that makes “YOUR” phone that much better. And the cream of the crop: MMS. Now I can see all the little cute little images my little sister wants to send me without pen and paper and a home computer.

    I like apple technology, I do not like apple software. If they just come off their I’m high and mighty horse it would be perfect. Variety is the spice of life, and it seems as if apple had their way everyone would be wearing the same thing eating the same thing and thinking the same way. Hey apple! This isn’t a new concept, it’s been tried before, I remember seeing a old news real about it but it was kinda hard to understand since the narration was in GERMAN!!!!!

  33. Stanley says:

    You know who else limited people’s options for the “betterment” of everyone: The Nazis.

    People who think having more options is a bad thing don’t deserve having them in the first place.

  34. Jim says:

    I understand why apple does this:
    it is to make it easy for the mainstream user. Follow the bell curve: the majority of users don’t even know what jailbreaking is. They are so over-awed by their new iphone that they don’t care that they can’t customize their wallpaper.

    I jailbreaked my iphone then wonder why the heck I did it (aside from an unlock…which I think is BS that phone makers develop contracts with providers…that is the biggest crock of shit so i support unlocking )…ooh I can have wallpaper. Great. The other stuff was a little over my head…I am the mainstream user and restored my phone because it was pointless. I did not understand some of the other stuff…why? because I am not in the computer biz…I don’t understand code and kernels…just a normal guy.

    However for the closed minded against jailbreaking: How are you breaking a contract? Apple doesn’t get hurt by you using another program that they do not offer. Apple does not suffer because you have an APP that allows you to connect your phone to your laptop and use it as an internet connection. AT&T might, but only because they want you to buy their data card and plan.

    I have no moral issue with someone jailbreaking. It is not stealing. You paid for the phone you should be able to do what you want with it as long as you aren’t creating malicious code or downloading free music that you might otherwise pay for…yes jailbreaking allows the potential for this, but the act of jailbreaking itself does no harm.

  35. Coldkase says:

    Holy moses!
    It is so funny what fanboys are capable of, surely no matter how big a fan you are of something, you can admit flaws… Nothing NOTHING is perfect and its ridiculous to feel like you’ve got to so violently defend something you like. I agree that customizable message tones is not an unreasonable request/expectation of such an impressive product and comparing the ability to allow custom message tones to rape is obviously the ramblings of a dangerous mental patient…

  36. Static says:

    I’m seriously considering jailbreaking my iPhone. Purely for the SMS alert customization. How can apple have left this feature out? We live in an age where everybody wants to express themselves in their own unique way. Sure this could allow for some malicious software or designs but when people are allowed to add their own say into somethin, then alot of the time u can get some truly great inventions. Where would we be if the people who invented the tv said u can only use our product with our devises. U wouldn’t have HD, blu-ray, games consoles would prob not be invented and apple and microsoft would probably not have monitors to display ur beloved pcs or macs. And as for people sayin u knew what u were getting before you bought ur iPhone…. By ur own statement u can NEVER complain about somethin u buy ever again.
    now this is where I’m gonna lose all credability with u guys but I’m a microsoft fan. Although I’ve got 2 ipod shuffles, 1 nano and an iPhone. If apple don’t change their ways I’ll never by a product from them again. I got my iPhone buyin into the hype that it was the greatest phone ever… But I was wrong to do so. Yeah the iPhone is classed as a smartphone, but they say a computer is only as clever as the person who made it as they have no real intelligence of their own. Well I put it to u that my iPhone is an idiotphone for not having some simple basic features that every one of my older phones have. Apple are cuttin alot of people out with their business tactics and will be the cause of their own downfall. I mean…. U can’t even develop iPhone apps on windows. This isn’t gonna make me buy a mac so I can suffer more uncustomizable features, no, it’s gonna make me change my phone and not get the next iPhone. If the iPhone sdk was windows friendly then there would be a shed load more of new apps available. And since apple takes 30% of all app sales and have to authorize ur app before it goes on sale… How could malicious apps get thru?

  37. matt says:

    Oka… So Im In Love with My Iphone 3g but at the Same time, i WIsh i would have kept my previous Nokia E61i. So much that apple left out, its sheer bullshit. For example having to pay to create a ringtone after you’ve purchased the music from itunes once already. So I refuse to Jailbreak my iPhone! I Will simply wait to see if apple offers a solution for this as of right now, sms epicfail!

  38. Bob says:

    Hi you r rite,never mind those who dont understand that apple should have what most other fones have in regards to their software on the fones,i have the iphone 3Gs now but b 4 that i had the iphone that i thought u cud aleast mms on it,but no,what a stupid bit of software to leave off !!! and for the bluetooth well what shud i say,u cant bluetooth anything over to another fone,i cud not understand the reason 4 it,so stupid u r apple,as r those on ere who dont understand y people want these on their fones,ur the sad ones !!!

  39. Big D says:

    hoo rah! why does the company with one of the best phones on the planet not let you change your sms tone? and then only give you 6 crappy ass ones to choose from…..so the millions of people in the world that have the iphone all have to choose from the 6…..i dont want to JB my phone at the risk of it becoming a paper weight but my ringtone and sms tone are and have always been the main things i alter on phones….if you are going to make a product, why make it less than it can be? other than that i love the iphone so i think apple need to chill out and relax on the restrictions!

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