Over the weekend a friend of mine was speaking to me about switching over from an iPhone to Android, and was asking me about some of the benefits of doing so. One of the pros I mentioned to him in regards to having an Android device is having the ability to root the phone. After asking me a few questions about it, his response was "ok yeah, but I can also jailbreak my iPhone, so no big difference there“. Lots of users, both Android and IOS alike, actually don't know that there is a very big difference between the IOS jailbreak and Android root access. You can't actually "jailbreak" Android or "root" IOS, and I thought I would write this article to explain a few of the differences between rooting Android and IOS jailbreak.
Lets start with the iPhone. Some iPhone users like to "jailbreak“ their device after purchasing it, as it allows you do perform certain things on the iPhone that you can't do when it's not jailbroke. So what is jailbreaking? Jailbreaking is actually the process of removing certain restrictions and limitations put into place by Apple on devices that run the IOS operating system. To accomplish a jailbreak, a custom kernel is used to grant root access to the device. Once an IOS user has jailbroke his device, he is then able to download apps that aren't in the App Store, use themes, and extenstions that Apple doesn't support. Users do still have access to the App Store and iTunes when a device is jailbroken, and it doesn't affect standard functionality. Basically, jailbreaking allows you to use software that Apple doesn't authorize. Now while IOS users might consider jailbreaking their iPhone the same thing as Android users rooting their Android phones, there is a HUGE difference. In fact, you can't even compare jailbreaking to rooting, and here's why.
Apple's operating system is not an open source system, meaning that you cannot make changes to the actual source code. Android however, is an open source operating system, and allows you to do MUCH more than just install 3rd party apps.
Android out of the box allows users to install 3rd party apps (also known as sideloading), already allows you to install themes, and even allows you to install applications directly from your SD card or internal memory of your device. Everything that IOS users hope to accomplish with jailbreaking their device is already included as basic functionality within Android. So what exactly does root accomplish for Android? Well, not only does it allow you to gain priveged control of your device, overcome limitations that carriers and OEMS put on devices (skins, ect), but also allows you to COMPLETELY remove and replace the entire operating system of the device. This is achievable due to the fact that Android itself was built on a Linux kernel, and allows a user to access administrative permissions on their phone or tablet.
So on an Android device, rooting basically gives you access to more or less the entire operating system. You can completely remove the OS and replace it with user made operating systems that contain tweaks and enhancements (known as ROMS), and you can even access and adjust settings such as your processor speeds. With the help of a custom kernel, IOS devices can be jailbroke to run custom apps. With the help of a custom kernel on Android, you can overclock or underclock your actual processor speed. Pretty big difference right?
Additionally, root users can access the flash memory chip on their device, which is not possible with IOS devices. Rooting an Android phone grants the user what's known as "Superuser“ permissions, which allows specific applications to have root rights. The process itself normally includes exploiting a security weakness in firmware shipped from the factory. Google in many cases will encourage rooting (shipping many devices with unlocked bootloaders to make the process very simple) while warning you that it can cause damage to the device. Apple on the other hand is dead set against jailbreaking, as they only want users using apps distriubted from their App Store.
Easiest Explanation EVER To Explain Root Vs Jailbreak
Think of it like the Matrix: Jailbreaking is comparable to what Morpheus could do. He could bend the rules of the system to overcome certain restrictions, but was still bound to its rules. Rooting is what Neo could do. Not only could he bend the rules, he could completely break them (my God that was a slick analogy).
So there you are! That's a very brief and not overly technical way to describe the difference between jailbreaking and rooting. So next time you hear an IOS user saying that he can jailbreak his device the same way you root your Android device, he might actually be interested to know that there is indeed a very big difference.
Picture credits: (iPhone - gamertr.files.wordpress.com, Android Superuser - http://www.ijailbreak.com (edited by myself)