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"Rooting" Android Vs "Jailbreaking" an iPhone: What's The Difference?

Eric McBride


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. 

Jailbreaking IOS

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.

Android Root

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 -, Android Superuser - (edited by myself)

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  • Ti Mo May 7, 2012 Link

    Of course that's a good argument for Android.. But the mass doesn't care for that... I bet that not even 1 percent of the Android users root their device..

    It might get bigger if there were actually professional firms making custom Roms and selling those for a small amount of money and advertising their products.. I wish there was something like that.

    • Gurnoor Mann 6 months ago Link

      I have rooted my android and I change Roms on my note 2 almost every day .1 percent is too less I bet there are many more people that root .once you get into rooting you just can't bear getting into the default firmware .I say that root is getting more and more popular and new software developments are happening in this area every day this area is going to grow more and more as you completely get out of the clutches of the phone companies by this .why get stuck on one firmware when you can get a new one everyday .

  • Eric McBride May 7, 2012 Link

    True. I didnt want to make this article seem like an argument on whos better. I just wanted people to know the differences.But I get what you're saying.

  • Afam Dave May 7, 2012 Link


  • red May 7, 2012 Link

    Great job on comparing the two in the geeky way my mind thinks. It's more clear to me now that I have more freedoms than if I had an iPhone. Another reason I'm very happy I own my Android.

    T1Mo makes a good point, I think the Android majority will not root their device. But for me, I never was one to behave like the normal majority and I'm glad I have that option.

  • Eric McBride May 7, 2012 Link

    No problem :) Glad you liked it!

    And your totally right. Most users wont. I just do it as I find it provides the best user experience. And I like having the option of flashing new ROMS and overclocking my processor :)

  • red May 7, 2012 Link

    Exactly! You can make it your own.

    What's funny is I haven't rooting yet. I need to. Seeings how Android Pit has rooting forums, I should easily find how to do it.

  • Martin Krischik May 7, 2012 Link

    Some of the stuff you describe as rooting is actually “boot-loader unlock” and not root. So you are not that precise either.

    On the Nexus line you can unlock the boot-loader without having root. And then with an unlocked boot loader you can then get root.

    With an unlocked boot-loader you can install a new OS — without ever having root.

    On the other hand you can get root without unlocking the boot loader. But having only root you can *NOT* install a new OS. — Ask the Milestone user who have a hardware lock on there boot-loader.

  • new droider May 7, 2012 Link

    awesome analogy with the matrix lol

  • Eric McBride May 7, 2012 Link

    @new droider - Its good right! Im pretty proud of that! :-)
    @Martin - On the nexus line its possible, but not for the other dozens of android phones. On those devices, unlocking boot loader is required to achieve full root. With that being said, most people who root unlock the boot loader first, as the majority of those devices firstly require an unlocked bootloader to get full root access. 90% of xda modders and cookers would agree that full root includes unlocking the boot loader.
    @red what device do you have? I would be happy to help you get rooted!

  • DaBartonator
    • Mod
    May 7, 2012 Link

    Hmmmm million dollar company idea... start a company that you can either A send your phone into for then to root for you or B have workarounds to do it remotely then the majority mass of people would root because they wouldn't actually be doing it.

  • Jeremiah May 8, 2012 Link

    @DaBartonator And give us ICS, still waiting on that on most phones. I know people would pay to have ICS. Sure there's plenty of free roms out there with ICS but why hasn't someone started a business doing this. People would jump at the chance to get the latest android version, instead of waiting months/years for the carriers.

  • User picture
    Nick N. May 8, 2012 Link

    > Everything that IOS users hope to accomplish with
    > jailbreaking their device is already included as basic
    > functionality within Android.

    This is the crucial fact that ought to be advertised more as a distinguishing and superior feature of Android.

    The fact that it's referred to as "jailbreaking" is apropos because users are literally "locked up in a jail" with iOS.

  • Eric McBride May 8, 2012 Link

    @DaBartonator...that is a BRILLIANT idea! But maybe Google wouldn't allow it? Maybe a company could come to an agreement with them on this.

    @Nick - I couldnt agree more. That to me clearly shows the different directions that the operating systems go. Android =freedom + control of your own device. IOS =control as well, but from Apples standard of control. That control works great, but I prefer the freedom with the control :-D

  • red May 9, 2012 Link

    @Eric: I have a samsung galaxy s 4G (t mobile) and I would love to have help. I have been trying to educate myself by taking notes about the partitions, essential apps, different methods, etc., so I am not total ignorant. Just very overwhelmed atm.

    If you're game, I am. How should I hear from you?

  • Dvoraak Sep 5, 2012 Link

    This is a good article Eric and I thought a comment from a jailbreaker might add a little more insight.
    While jailbreaking iOS doesn't give full access to the OS, that's a plus to anyone with an Apple mindset. There's a reason that only the very latest and greatest Android devices (with the latest and greatest hardware) are faster than an iPhone with half the specs (and even those don't beat a 4S by much), iOS is an incredibly efficient system that uses resources grudgingly. With jailbreaking you'll get 90% of Android's abilities while still preserving iOS and it's nearly flawless performance.
    If, like me, you think that Apple's UI is brilliant and intuitive you can add Winterboard and have access to some beautiful themes while preserving the basics of an iPhone's homescreen.... or if you want to imagine a completely different way of using the phone you can add Dreamboard and those themes where the sky's the limit and iOS isn't even recognizable anymore. Again, all while getting the same great performance from the hardware and iOS.
    That's not to say you can't change your phone for the worse (memory leaks, shortened battery life) but if you do a little research before downloading everything in sight you can keep everything that really is good about iOS while gaining freedom from it.

    • Leah Holmes Jan 5, 2014 Link

      I disagree I jb both my iPhone and ipad for yrs and jb makes ios devises a lot more buggy and crash more frequently my note 3 is not only faster even with a theme and different apps it dose not crash so yes ios is reliable and runs smoothly but not when ur jailbrokan and have a themes on so you don't keep both things if ur gonna jb mint as well move to a android ul get a much better performance with a lot more features Right out the box ! Plus apple are makeing it harder for the avaders to make new jb with every new ios it's predicted there will come a time when jb will be impossible and that's the day appel really will be finished

  • Eric McBride Sep 5, 2012 Link

    Glad you enjoyed it Dvoraak, and thank you for sharing more insights! I am yet to jailbreak an iPhone, but I would like to just to see what I can get away with :-D

  • Dvoraak Sep 5, 2012 Link

    LOL well I haven't rooted an Android but I'll probably try with the Note 2. Honestly though, I've seen some shell themes that blew me away (spb is freakin' amazing) so I wonder whether to root or use a shell (or can you do both?).
    Jailbreaking is a project and not necessarily for the faint hearted unless they just want access to free app stores. Of course, those users are way more likely to jack their phone up in the process. Pirated apps aren't much better than pirated pc software and just as dangerous far as I'm concerned.
    I'm guessing rooting is the same way. I just hope the learning curve isn't too steep.

    • Leah Holmes Jan 5, 2014 Link

      Your right I never use cracked apps I always pay from my tweaks on cydia as it helps the developers out as they work hard makeing them for us and I don't wanna wreck My ipad lol I've been jb for a long time and I have just moved to a android phone and am nervous about rooting as i have not done it befor I may buy a cheap android to practice on first lol

  • Barry Wombleton Mar 17, 2013 Link

    Late to the party, but nonetheless well worth the read. Good analogy using the Matrix! It's refreshing to read an article that has comments that don't get into a "this is better than that" argument where the trolls start coming out. It was a fair, neutral and quite insightful article. Thanks for sticking to the truths.

    I own a Nexus 4 and love the thing. I haven't rooted nor do I think I will. My wife owns the iPhone 5 and she is constantly using it. I would love to jailbreak it and add features to it, but I fear I will end up in the dog house or worse if I do.

  • LBD Apr 18, 2013 Link

    Great answer! Made it so easy to explain to the little iphone addict who thought that I was wrong for saying the two were different.

  • Richard Nieves May 16, 2013 Link

    As a previous owner of android I also want to add my two cents.

    As far as themes and tweaks and stuff, android doesn't "do this out of the box" as mentioned. Android does have superior customization but its not as huge of a difference comparing stock android and ios as people think. On android you can download other apps and make them "default" for certain functions. THIS is where android is strong on customizing. With this you can change the manager for home screen, lock screen and app functions. However these apps don't always work as seemless as expected. For instance, lock screens don't replace your lock screen, they turn it off and when the phone is turned back on, the app is launched. Many times the app doesn't even launch quick enough and the home screen pops first.

    Home screen apps do function much better, I used these all the time! However even if you use both the lock screen and home screen apps, these are NOT themes. Each one has their own themes. To change the actual system theme on android requires root and usually a different rom (either themed itself or with a theme manager).

    So while you can technically change the look of certain things on android, its through apps, not actually stem themes. Same with many system tweaks.

    I don't disagree with the whole matrix analogy though! Awesome reference and true, but stock android vs stock ios has one major advantage, default apps. Just like ios has stability. It basically comes down to freedom and control (android) or stability and control (ios) both are awesome in different ways :-)

    • Leah Holmes Jan 5, 2014 Link

      True but if you jailbreak a ios device they have more crashes and problems then on android and if you don't jb everything is so limited and ul be Bord of your phone within a few months! unless ur not very good with technology the are no benefits to haveing a iphone and the newer android devices like the note 3 run smoothly just like a iphone but have so much more built in (not apps) the things I can do with my phone make my old iphone look like a toy even just the camera app has loads more features That the one on the iPhone doesn't not the mention air gestures And everthing else, there not apps thats right out the box! And what people mean when they say you can do that right out the box with android is you can download themes and that straight from Google play with out doing anything but on a iphone you have to jb to be able to customise or download themes they don't mean the themes are built in!

  • Adam Daieh Jun 6, 2013 Link

    I still prefer a jailbroken iphone over an android. It's very user friendly. Got my jailbreak and cydia guide at

  • Leah Holmes Jan 5, 2014 Link

    So basically more could go rong with rooting then a jb ?? I only ask as I have just jumped from a iphone to a note 3 and I still have my ipad I've jb both my ipad and iphone befor and love haveing the freedom to customise them but I thought going to a android would eliminate the need To jb but I tried to download a screen recorder app on Google play (as I love the one on my ipad comes in handy) it downloaded fine but I tried to open it and it says it needs root access! I would root my phone but people have said there is more chance of bricking ur phone then with jailbreaking a ios device And after reading this looks like there right 😕 but if I rooted my phone just to use apps that ask for root access and don't use custom roms what r the chances of bricking it??

  • Jerry Fang 8 months ago Link

    I also look it at this way. Jailbreak iOS, the sky is the limit. Rooting Android OS, the universe is the limit. Like Uncle Ben from superman say to Peter Parker. With great power comes with great responsibilities. If you don't know what you're doing on a rooted android can damage your phone. The possibilities on root android is unlimited. A stock Android, out of the box can do everything maybe more than a jailbroken iOS. I've have an iPad mini and jailbroke it to see whats all the fuzz about jailbreaking and just disappoint me at the end seeing that I can do what a jailbroken iOS on my brother stock Samsung Galaxy Tab3. I've install springboard and every couple days, springboard crash on me. I choose Root over jailbreak anyday. I like my freedom, I like custom ROMs custom Kernels, I like my Note 2 to be different than everyone else. With iOS, everyone will look the same. So all and all, with iOS, the sky is the limit, with Android, the universe is the limit.

  • Victor Azzam 7 months ago Link

    I understand and and support many of the points made in this article, but someone's clearly an android supporter. Android is the least safe OS meaning its usage could be tracked by hackers once their tool has been used by some fool only looking to download a custom skin or whatever the heck. Also, you can be a dumbass and still know how to work your way around jailbreaking, which is clearly more organised due to the fact that it has its own Cydia store full of themes, tweaks, mods, etc. (all of which are categorised respectively). On the lower hand, rooting exposes the heart of the OS which 90% users don't give an F about, and quite frankly don't know how to deal with. I bet you that maybe 1 in 10,000 people who have Android have any idea about custom ROMS and shit. Like honestly, one would prefer jailbreaking over rooting, considering rooting requires 1000 times the effort that jailbreaking requires to dowload a paid app for free for instance. I've said my thing. Shit's done.

  • Hitchhiker 4 months ago Link

    Sorry for my english :

    - "Apple's operating system is not an open source system, meaning that you cannot make changes to the actual source code"

    Actualy, on a jailbroken iPhone you can do a lot more than install 3rd party apps it's also possible to perform some code injection that loaded into all process and modify the entire OS without the source code.
    A custom ROM is just a "Android based" OS with a lot of extra features and improvements, so there is not a big difference between an tweaked iPhone and a custom ROM

    BTW it's possible to install a custom ROM in a iPhone too, never heard of whited00r ?

    The only thing Android can do more is to have a better acces to the hardware (Acctualy it's a really good thing, but it's possible to overclock the iPhone too ;) )

    Well, an another undocumented article about iOS jailbreaking....