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Rooting Android vs Jailbreaking iOS: what's the difference?

Authored by: Kris Carlon — 2 months ago

Over the weekend a friend of mine told me they were considering switching from an iPhone to Android. This friend asked me about some benefits of doing so. One of the pros I mentioned about Android was that you can root the phone.

iPhone 6 vs MotoX 9
What's the difference between rooting and jailbreaking? / © ANDROIDPIT

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, on 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. So this this article will explain a few of the differences between rooting Android and iOS jailbreak. 

root fastboot recovery galaxy nexus
Rooting your Android is not the same as jailbreaking. / © AndroidPIT

Jailbreaking iOS

Let's start with the iPhone. Some iPhone users like to "jailbreak“ their device after purchasing it, as it allows you to perform things on the iPhone that you can't do when it's not jailbroken. So what is jailbreaking? Jailbreaking is the process of removing software restrictions 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.

iphone 6 2
Some iPhone owners like to jailbreak their phones. / © ANDROIDPIT

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 consider rooting their phones, there is a huge difference. In fact, you can't even compare jailbreaking to rooting. 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 third-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.

nexus 5 homescreen live wallpaper
Want more Android power? Try rooting. / © ANDROIDPIT

So what exactly does root accomplish for Android? Well, not only does it allow you to gain privileged 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 jailbroken 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?

samsung galaxy s6 heart rate monitor
Rooting a phone requires patience. / © ANDROIDPIT

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 distributed from their App Store.

Easiest explanation to Explain root vs jailbreaking

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).

Xperia Z3 Compact vs iPhone 6
So root vs jailbreaking...what's the deal? / © ANDROIDPIT

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.

Kris Carlon comes to the AndroidPIT Editorial Team via a lengthy period spent traveling and relying on technology to keep him in touch with the outside world. He joined the Android community while resurfacing in civilization back in 2010 and has never looked back, using technology to replace his actual presence in other people's lives ever since. He can usually be found juggling three phones at once and poring over G+ posts, Reddit and RSS feeds.


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  • Hellzy 1 month ago Link to comment

    Quick question I decided to say goodbye to iPhones/Apple after having their phones since the beginning jail breaking along the way. I have a s6 edge 128g on the way and will want to tinker until I have it setup with tools/apps/utilities/tweaks that I had with a jb iPhone. I head about KNOX and am worried about turning my expensivee new phone into a paperweight. Thoughts,ideas, clarifications regarding a process would be very appreciated!!!

    • Brenden Gonzalez 1 month ago Link to comment

      Well search "galaxy s6 egde xda" Any information about a rooting process for that phone will be on that site but even if there is a way to root because of KNOX if you do root it will void your warranty and trip a unlock symbol on boot up that you can not get rid of so if you ever need the warranty your out of luck usually you wanna look into rooting before you buy a device because there's never a guarantee there will be a root method kinda like jailbreaking is never guarantee on a iOS version.

  • Jon 2 months ago Link to comment

    Love the Matrix analogy! :)

  • Terie Mumby 2 months ago Link to comment

    I'm sure jailbreaking got easier over time as does rooting. The point is... Apple products are extremely overpriced and Steve Jobs wants to control everything... Even from the grave. And don't get me wrong. Thats why Apple stuff works so well and that's a good thing. People just want their gadget to work.
    People like to play games on their gadget. For me the phone IS the game. That's why I like Android. Plus... I get to keep a good chunk of money for other things like food.
    I've tried both. I choose Android. A lot of Apple owner's will not even try Android. I was one of those people. My wife bought me a nexus 7 tablet by mistake and I was not happy. I'm glad the stores were closed during Christmas. It forced me to sit down and seriously look at the Android system and I'm grateful because I will never go back to Apple now.

  • Reg Joo 2 months ago Link to comment

    "rooting allows you to completely remove ,and replace the entire operating system of the device" , uh no. Rooting gives you control of your device, of the rom on it, but by itself, can't replace the rom , with a different rom, unless the bootloader's unlocked. By having the bootloader unlocked, your recovery, if it has a feature to install apks' , zips, or tars, can install another rom. If not you can replace your recovery, with a custom recovery, that has that feature.

  • Terie Mumby 2 months ago Link to comment

    I should add one other thing.. The simplicity of rooting compared to when I was jailbreaking is soon much easier. And don't forget. It's not against the law. Rooting is encouraged. The writer is correct. There's a huge difference, Apple-lovers.

    • Andy W 2 months ago Link to comment

      Rooting my nexus 5 involved using terminal commands and following a step by step guide with multiple steps. Rooting my iPhone involved holding a couple of buttons on my Phone and hitting start on an app on my PC.

    • Pip Pop 3 weeks ago Link to comment

      Jailbreak my iPhone take 5 min (worst case) ! I mean 3 min downloading the stuff and push start ! Done !!! And jailbreaking is not against the law ! Cydia allow you to instal deb. Pack tweak ! PIRACY IS AGAINS THE LAW ... And I like to say geeks are geeks ! They like spending time changing one line code to make a pixel brighter However unuseful or full of lag shit it is !!!! That is they're thing ... Like my stuff pack well and smooth + some plus extra some my iPad mini jailbroken can do anything I need and it's a choice

  • Terie Mumby 2 months ago Link to comment

    Not true.. I come from the iOs jailbreak world. I love the freedom of Android and root. NO comparison. I will never buy another Apple product. But... There's some out there that are so Apple - minded... Or.. Closed-minded they will never even look at anything but Apple products.. EVER!

  • plck74 2 months ago Link to comment

    if someone forgot to off auto update IOS, the system will checking if any will lock the phone forever. you need to pay money to unlock it. some i heard...get fine

    • Harsh Vasudeva 2 months ago Link to comment

      No, its fake news

    • Andy W 2 months ago Link to comment

      That doesn't happen. iOS check if there is an update and informs the user with a message. If yiy then update, just like an Android phone running a custom kernal you will probably broke your phone. Bricking is way easy to fix on an iPhone, you just hold a couple of buttons and restore your phone from iTunes.

  • Glostermeteor 2 months ago Link to comment

    What I love about Android is actually what you can do without rooting, like installing custom launchers which actually brings a huge amount of customisation without having to do anything technical

  • Rogue Tomato 2 months ago Link to comment

    If you jailbreak iOS, you're still stuck with iOS. If you root Android, you still have Android. That's the biggest difference.

  • abaneyone 3 months ago Link to comment

    I'll root my androids any day all the time, don't want an android without root access. However I don't actually know anyone who even knows what root is, except for those I've met online. The people I know think rooting is illegal (which it's not) and are more concerned with violating their warranty or carrier plans.

  • Hitchhiker 8 months ago Link to comment

    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....

  • Victor Azzam Jul 19, 2014 Link to comment

    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.

    • Reppy07 4 months ago Link to comment

      You have to be the biggest dip shit I've ever seen. Rooting takes 1000 times the effort? I've rooted maybe 5 of my Android phones altogether so far and have never spent more than 5 to 10 minutes doing so. On iPhone, I thank evasion for actually making it simple.

      Do more on a jailbroken phone? Tweaks are added over top of what you have. The more you have=the buggier the system gets. Rooting an android allows you to gut whatever you want from the software. My Galaxy s5 for example, I spent maybe 15 to 20 minutes reading what system features are okay to delete and gutted it all. No gestures, no fingerprint scan, none of that crap. Any system app I don't like? Gone. What does Cydia do? I wanted to get rid of passport and newsstand crapware. I couldn't physically remove them with iFile. I had to get tweaks to HIDE the icon.

      It's fine if you love jailbreaking, but remember people like me have spent YEARS jailbreaking long before rooting androids. I've only been rooting for maybe 2 and a half years and I will never go back to iPhone. Some things I sure do miss, such as the slider tweak and Intelliscreen X and of course bitesms which I have yet to see Android even come close. But the power of complete freedom is addictive and unsurpassed by jailbreak.

      Besides, once jailbroken, how much can you do without Cydia? Lol. Next to NOTHING. Xposed Framework is the equivalent to Cydia. Cydia is not neatly organized. It's a silly mess of continuous scrolling with barely any localized jailbreak community. I'll take XDA over whatever the jailbreaking community has which is riddled with little kids.

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