MCDGRES EC004That was quick. One week after jailbreaking my iPhone 4S to pump just a few more months of longevity into the buggy, aging device I’ve recanted the jailbreaker’s oath (which doesn’t exist) and donned the robe of Apple subservience (which also doesn’t exist).

I decided to jailbreak the 4S for a few reasons. The first was that I wanted to know what all of the hype was about. Why would moving outside of Apple’s control be so appealing? The second was that my lock button doesn’t work, which has lead to decreased battery life and frustrating “pocket dials,” which I thought had gone extinct with the rise of the smartphone. And the third was that, frankly, I was bored with iOS and wanted to spruce it up a bit.

The first day with my newly jailbroken phone didn’t go so well. The second went better, and allowed me to download and install tweaks like SBSettings, Activator, Auxo, and “BlurriedNCBackground” to customize my phone to my liking. But by the third day, well, things had gotten frustrating.

Almost every app I tried to use would crash at one point or another. Tweetbot, my Twitter client of choice, would fail to load new Tweets, stutter, and then die. Quote.fm, my read-later app, would refresh, let me tap on something, and then die. Digg… well, you get my point. I had traded the ability to Tweet, read, and use my phone as something other than a paperweight for the pleasure of a non-linen background for Notification Center, the ability to lock my phone (via Activator), and see little thumbnails of running apps, which were blank screens more often than not.

A quick look around the Web shows that I’m not alone in my frustration. Programmer Dylan James wrote an especially good take on why he decided to go back to an Apple-sanctioned iOS experience, concluding:

I know I could come under fire for saying this, but I’d really rather sacrifice a lot of freedom on my iPhone than deal with a wider scope of function that bugs out from time to time. I think it’s better to have fewer features work nearly 100% of the time than a variety of fringe features developed with sloppy code and stability problems that works much less of the time.

I’m not criticizing the jailbreak community, nor am I criticizing Cydia. Like I said, in principle I love jailbreaking and all the wonderful tools it brings with it. But in every case I’ve jailbroken my phone, the euphoria dies in less than a month and I find that all those cool features I “couldn’t live without” are not as cool as having a phone that doesn’t lag or crash.

We can all complain about Apple’s death-grip on iOS as much as we want, bemoaning its decision to not allow new default apps (so someone could, say, replace Apple’s shoddy apps with Google’s much better suite) or to cover the operating system with linen and leather (a trend that some apps are starting to buck) but it won’t mean much if moving outside of Apple’s control is such a bad experience.

Jailbreaking itself is fine. The process itself is done — and undone — in just a few minutes and is simple enough that a 10-year-old could do it. Installing apps from Cydia might not be the most breathtaking experience, but it’s also fairly simple. Where I, James, and who knows how many others seem to have a problem is with the lack of stability brought about by these deceptively simple tools.

I miss being able to access WiFi, brightness, and location settings with a swipe. I miss thumbnails that helped to better differentiate apps with similar icons. I miss having the ability to lock my goddamn phone. But I missed the Web, Twitter, Quote.fm, Chatter (maybe not Chatter) and other apps more.