July 6th 2011 – This date marks the end of the anxious and desperate wait for the iPad 2 Jailbreak; a monumental day in the brief history of jailbreaking Apple devices. This remarkable day marked the official release of JailBreakMe 3.0 by the genius that is comex. Using this technique, users are seamlessly able to jailbreak their devices (supporting all devices on iOS 4.3.3, excluding the iPhone 3G) without being tethered to a computer. Simply navigate to jailbreakme.com in a browser, click Install and within seconds, the infamous Cydia icon will appear on your homescreen.
The excitement behind this particular release is amplified by this being the first official untethered jailbreak for the game changing iPad 2, almost four months after its release. Along with this, a multitude of news articles reported on this release; some even non-Apple focused sites. With MyGreatFest quickly approaching (the world’s first official jailbreak convention organised by Craig Fox (@flawlessfox / @mygreatfest) to be held in the city of London in September), the jailbreaking community is growing at an excelling and unprecedented rate. More and more people are becoming aware of it or being introduced to the community through various mediums. Therefore, with 2 million+ people already using this JailBreakMe 3.0 within a week of its release and millions of people with jailbroken devices before that, this is an appropriate time to provide an insight to all users who are unsure about or new to jailbreaking with the reasoning behind why I, and so many other users jailbreak their iDevices.
So why do I jailbreak? It is difficult to summarize that question into a single sentence. A colleague had recently asked for the reason as to why people jailbreak their devices? What do they get out of it? Is it because of the pirated apps and themes? This is the influence behind this article; to educate people about the art of Jailbreaking and what it can bring, for users new to this or intermediate users unsure about the benefits. Also, based on his question, the art of jailbreaking has a very negative view to the world of being solely for the purpose of pirating apps.
I love everything to do with Apple and their products; both software and hardware and to me jailbreaking opens up certain limitations. Taking this opportunity, I would like to declare that the reason I jailbreak is not now, nor has it ever been for the sake of pirating or promoting the piracy of app downloads. I have spent a fair bit of money on every single tweak that I have on my phone and I appreciate the developers who put the time and effort into all that they do, including comex with the jailbreakme 3.0. The vast amount of available themes represent approximately 30% for the reason I jailbreak my device. My colleague received the answer of “to add convenient functionality to my phone” and this involved me simply showing him the power and efficiency of some of the tweaks I have; Activator in particular.
This article represents part 1 of an in-depth look into why I jailbreak my devices, focusing here on Activator in particular. Mentions and brief descriptions of each of the apps that I currently use to take advantage of the multiple gestures with Activator will follow. However Part 2 onwards of a series of articles will dive into the depths of some of my most used tweaks; some mentioned within this article. Personally I believe people do not give enough credit and/or attention to Activator, but hopefully with this article you will witness the benefits.
Activator is certainly not new and should go down as one of the best tweaks that has ever been created; something you can bank on Apple implementing very soon. With iOS 4+ and for users who have not jailbroken their devices, using XCode, users were able to make use of Multitasking Gestures through a developer account. This added functionality provides the ability to pinch the screen with 4 fingers to exit an opened app and to swipe between opened applications; a new way to multitask. Having used iOS 5 on a spare phone; although I do love the direction it is taking, I miss the Activator settings more than anything; the settings that took hours to perfect. Interestingly, yesterday marked the release of Beta 3 for iOS 5 by Apple, available with a developers account with an interesting inclusion of gestures. This is certainly a positive direction for Apple to take and provides user created and customisable gestures. However with a Jailbroken device, Activator currently represents a whole different ballgame and remains ahead of what is currently provided by Apple. This of course may change in the near future.
Developed by Ryan Petrich, this tweak provides simple shortcuts using your screen and the buttons on your device to make opening your favorite apps convenient, efficient and wonderfully fast; you will wonder how you ever lived without this.
Upon downloading Activator from Cydia, as with most tweaks, there is no new icon on your springboard. Within the Settings section of your device however, you will be presented with a simple but highly intuitive interface under the Activator heading. This provides the platform to select and customize your gestures. Selecting Anywhere provides you with a global setting that will work when your phone is displaying the lockscreen, the unlock screen and when within an app. Of course the freedom allows for these settings to be configured on an individual scenario basis rather than globally. This is as complicated as the tweak gets. Ryan has plausibly included a diverse range of gestures that can be used; for example shaking the device, double pressing the home button or holding down the volume up button, to name but a few. There are 28 different gestures that can be applied; I will be comprehensively covering each of the available gestures along with the how I take advantage of each on my iPhone.
Home Button – Double Press (With the Phone Unlocked)
MobileNotifier + Multitasking Tray
One of my favourite tweaks for a jailbroken device, this shortcut activates the MobileNotifier Dashboard. Developed by the now infamous Peter Hajas, this aspect provided an early look into the iOS 5 Notification Center; although of course we were not aware of this until WWDC in June. This provides a central hub for collecting your notifications. If you are not running iOS 5, I highly recommend this for the ability to experience the new style of notifications. Because by default this gesture is applied to the Multi-tasking bar by Apple (double pressing the home button), this is in use below the MobileNotifier notifications dashboard without any conflict. MobileNotifier is available to download in Cydia.
Home Button – Double Press (With the Phone On The Lockscreen)
Due to the excellent LockInfo being in place on my lockscreen, I have implemented this particular gesture to differ in actions when the phone is locked and unlocked. On the lockscreen, this gesture automatically opens Whatsapp – one of the most used apps on my iPhone; an excellent and efficient way to message iPhone, Blackberry and Android users across the world without incurring any cost, until iMessage with iOS 5 of course. With the use of another independent tweak, this particular process excels in efficiency. Using CleverPin (another recommended app), when I am home and using a recognised wireless network, this gesture will allow me to bypass the Passcode entry and enter Whatsapp straight away. Of course, for security, when I am out of the recognised and trusted network, this will require the passcode before the phone unlocks and enters Whatsapp. Whatsapp is available to download from the App Store.
Home Button – Short Hold
With a single short hold of the Home Button, my phone will automatically open up the Phone.App to the Contacts tab; this is configurable within Activator where you could for example be taken to the Keypad tab instead.
Home Button – Single Press
This gesture is unassigned on my phone keeping the default action of closing an app and heading back to the homescreen. Also while in the Springboard and not within an app, pressing the Home button automatically takes you to the Spotlight Search.
Double Tap Clock on Lock Screen
This gesture is currently unassigned.
Shake the Device
This is a sensitive gesture and so careful consideration is required because you would not want to for example assign this to the Phone.App as calling a contact accidentally would be an easy thing to achieve. Therefore I have left this unassigned.
Power – Connected / Disconnected
These gestures are in relation to when the device is charging and has finished charging. Although this has potential to be very useful, it is currently not being used on my phone.
Sleep/Wake Button – Double Press
Always needing quick access to take and write notes, this gesture has been assigned to an excellent note taking program; Evernote. This program provides you with the ability to create notes within folders and stacks while seamlessly synchronising between multiple devices/computers with support for Mac, Windows, iOS and Android devices. This gesture provides the quick ability to take a note both when the phone is locked and unlocked. Evernote is available to download from the App Store.
Sleep/Wake Button – Short Hold
Although the default action with this gesture is to Slide to Power Off the phone, I have assigned an excellent tweak that takes shutting down the phone to a more efficient level. GPower Pro provides the option to Shutdown the phone, restart and respring; all of which are key functionalities and useful features to have. GPower Pro is developed by John Heaton and is available in Cydia within the BigBoss repo.
Slide In – From Screen Bottom
At first, activating this gesture may seem difficult but as soon as it becomes clear exactly how to invoke this gesture, it will become invaluable. The trick is to slowly swipe your finger straight up from just above the home button into the screen. Using this technique which is subconsciously my most used gesture, MultiFl0w activates showing my running apps in an Exposé like fashion. For everyone who hates Apple’s implementation of Multi-tasking, please take notice of this app. If you’re a Mac user, you may very well be familiar with the excellent functionality of this feature and this is certainly carried here. Reveal all of your running applications either in an Exposé or Cards like fashion. This is my preferred multitasking technique and makes the switching between apps a seamless and less painful process. On any non-jailbroken device I use, I always find myself swiping up to no avail when trying to switch apps. MultiFl0w is available in Cydia within the BigBoss repo and developed by the extensively talented Aaron Ash (Charybdis).
Slide In – From Screen Left
While the phone is unlocked, this technique opens Whatsapp on my device. This gesture can be invoked within any app and on the homescreen. The reason this gesture is not used for the lockscreen and is instead replaced by double-pressing the Home button for opening Whatsapp (as highlighted earlier) is because LockInfo is in use on the locked screen and sliding gestures I find can sometimes interfere with information present on the screen.
Slide In – From Screen Right
Talking on the phone is one of the least used processes I engage in while using my phone. However, when I do, I simply call my wife on her phone. Therefore tying in with the whole purpose of Activator, this gesture allows me to call, text or even email my wife with a single swipe and a click; much faster than physically opening the Phone.App to call her or the mail.app to email her, respectively. This is set-up to work in all states with the phone unlocked, locked and within any app. iQuickCall is an excellent app, really highlighting that sometimes the simplest tweaks are the most practical. This is developed by DjKira and available in Cydia within the ModMyi repo.
Being an avid user of Twitter, the ability to enter a favorite Twitter specific client efficiently should involve very little navigation on the phone and therefore a double-tap of the status bar in quick succession opens Tweebot. This is an excellent Twitter client providing a unique and intuitive interface with a multitude of functional and customisable options available; the ability to follow users from their avatar in a timeline and send articles to Read it Later, to name just a few. Tweetbot is available in the Apple Store.
Status Bar – Swipe Down
Status Bar – Hold
The process of jailbreaking brings about an incredible array of available tweaks. Dock provides a stunning interface showboating a customisable set of your apps on the side of the screen. The purpose of this is to provide you with an ability to have easy access to run any of your apps without needing to go back to the home screen. Implementing this gesture to run on the lockscreen as well, apps can be opened automatically. This is useful if you have already assigned majority of the Activator settings to open your favorite applications. Holding down the status bar, Dock activates and illustrates my pre-selected apps. This allows me to switch between apps without needing to back to the home screen. An alternative multitasking technique. Dock is developed by Ma Jun and available through Cydia within the BigBoss repo.
There are moments where notes are just not enough and you need to add a to-do list or simply a task with a reminder. Enter Wunderlist; a beautiful and simple application that synchronises between devices and computers perfectly. With the holding of both the volume up and down button together, I am able to create a reminder without ever needing to unlock my phone and/or while I am within the phone perhaps in a different application. Maybe it’s just me, but I seem to have to remind myself to do little things at least 15 times a day and therefore this application is great. Wunderlist is available in the App Store.
Volume – Display Tap
Volume Button – Down, Then Up Simultaneously
One of the greatest missing features of the iOS is the ability to compose an SMS without needing to physically exit your current app and enter the Message.app. As with every missing feature, the jailbreak community has stepped in and made this possible. BiteSMS Quick Compose provides an efficient way to compose an SMS to any contact; it can be pre-configured to pre-select contact favorites or users can easily type the name of the chosen contact. With this gesture, the priceless ability of sending an SMS to my wife without needing to unlock my phone is achieved by pressing my volume down button followed by the volume up in quick succession. The QuickCompose window appears and therefore the phone does not need to be unlocked, or while within an app, I never need to exit what I am currently doing. BiteSMS is developed by an excellent team and is available in Cydia within the BigBoss repo.
While the device is locked, Apple have introduced the ability to play a song from the iPod.app with a simple double-press of the home button. However, this feature is not available when the phone is unlocked and therefore with the gesture of enabling Mute and disabling it in quick succession using the Mute Toggle Switch, I am able to enter the iPod.App when my phone is locked, unlocked and within an app. This provides for the ability to select the next song, pause and physically enter the iPod.app to chose a different song.
Volume Button – Up Short Hold
The saying “The best camera is the one you have with you” could not be more true; if I had a penny (as I am in the UK) for every moment I have missed an excellent photo opportunity with the delay involved with getting my phone out of my pocket. With that in mind, I could not count the number of times I have missed an opportunity because I would need to unlock my phone and locate the camera application (located within my Multimedia -> Pictures -> Shooting folder -> Camera.app – Yes, I have an obsession with folders within folders). This problem has been eliminated with the Camera button on the lockscreen with iOS 5. However with iOS 4, Activator steps in. Holding the Volume Up button will automatically open Camera+, my favorite camera application and will do this from the lockscreen as well. Using CleverPin and when within a trusted network, the ability to bypass the passcode entry ensures that photo moment can absolutely be captured and never missed again. Cameta+ is available in the App Store.
Volume Button – Up, Then Down Simultaneously
As with the ability to compose an SMS using BiteSMS Quick Compose without needing to enter Message.app, there are moments when composing an email without entering Mail.app could be made to be more efficient. This application performs one task, and it performs it well; tapping the envelope will open up the Mail.app in the compose screen with the Exit button closing the app. Send one email and rather than having to use the activator gesture to open this tweak again, it remains open. Tapping the envelope again provides you the ability to create another email. Just Mail is developed by dsinc14 and is available in Cydia within the ModMyi repo.
Headset Button – Short Hold (Headphones)
iPod.App Next Track
With headphones plugged in, this gesture allows for the current song to be skipped to the next song.
Headset Button – Single Press
Disclaimer: Last week the popular iDevice blogging site, iPhone Download Blog posted a similar review of Activator and an update and so credit is provided here. This article has been in progress for 10 days.