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Jailbreak vs. Unlock: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on March 28, 2024
Jailbreaking is the process of removing software restrictions imposed by iOS on devices like iPhones, while unlocking refers to removing a carrier's restrictions on a device to use it with other carriers.

Key Differences

Jailbreaking and unlocking are two distinct processes applied to smartphones, each serving a different purpose. Jailbreaking is a technique used primarily on iOS devices, such as iPhones and iPads, allowing users to bypass Apple's strict operating system restrictions. This process enables the installation of third-party apps not available on the Apple App Store, customizations, and tweaks that can enhance the device's functionality beyond what is officially permitted. Jailbreaking is about gaining full access to the operating system's root, enabling modifications to the software that are normally restricted by the manufacturer.
Jailbreaking opens up a device to a wide range of software customizations and third-party applications by altering the software, while unlocking a device only impacts its ability to connect to different mobile networks. The jailbreaking process can void the warranty and potentially expose the device to security vulnerabilities, given that it circumvents the software controls and protections put in place by the manufacturer. Conversely, unlocking is often legally supported and, in many cases, can be performed with the carrier's assistance once certain conditions are met, such as the completion of a payment plan.
Jailbreaking requires specific tools and software that can exploit vulnerabilities in the operating system to gain root access, and these tools must be updated with each new version of the operating system. Unlocking a phone usually involves entering a code provided by the carrier or using a third-party service that can unlock the phone's network restrictions.
Jailbreaking and unlocking address different limitations on a device: jailbreaking removes software restrictions to allow for more customization and app options, while unlocking removes carrier restrictions to allow a phone to be used with different networks. Both processes can enhance the device's usability, but they come with their own set of risks and considerations.

Comparison Chart


To bypass software restrictions on iOS devices.
To remove a carrier's restrictions on a device.

Applies To

Primarily iOS devices (iPhones, iPads).
Any mobile device with a SIM lock.


Installation of unauthorized apps, customization.
Use with any carrier's SIM card.


Can void warranty, security vulnerabilities.
May void warranty, less risky if carrier approved.

Legal Status

Varies by jurisdiction, generally legal.
Legal, often carrier-assisted.

Jailbreak and Unlock Definitions


Jailbreaking allows customization beyond Apple's limitations.
He jailbroke his iPhone to install custom themes not available on the App Store.


Unlocking a phone allows it to be used with any network.
After unlocking her phone, she could switch from her current carrier to a cheaper alternative.


Jailbreak enables the installation of apps from sources other than the App Store.
After jailbreaking her iPad, she could use apps that Apple hadn't approved.


Unlocking enables the use of local SIM cards when traveling abroad.
He unlocked his phone to use a local SIM card on his trip to Europe.


Jailbreaking provides root access to the device's operating system.
Jailbreaking his device allowed him to modify system settings Apple typically restricts.


Unlocked phones have a higher resale value than locked ones.
She sold her unlocked smartphone at a higher price because it could be used with any carrier.


Jailbreak users can fully customize their device's interface.
She enjoyed customizing her jailbroken iPhone's icons and animations.


Unlocking a phone is legal and can be done through the carrier.
After fulfilling his contract, he requested his carrier to unlock his phone legally.


Jailbreaking can unlock features not officially available.
By jailbreaking, he enabled video recording on a device that didn't support it officially.


Unlocking is often as simple as entering a code.
She entered the unlock code, and her phone was ready to use with any carrier.


An escape from jail.


To undo (a lock) by turning a key or corresponding part.


An escape from prison.


To undo the lock of.


(computing) A modification to the firmware of an electronic device (typically a mobile phone or tablet) to allow the installation and use of software not officially supported by the device's manufacturer.


(AI) A prompt to an artificial intelligence which frees it from its ethical restrictions.


To escape from prison.


To modify the firmware of an electronic device, especially a mobile phone, in order to remove restrictions that prevent it from running unofficial software.


(AI) To free an artificial intelligence from its ethical restrictions using prompt injection.


An escape from jail; as, five prisoners escaped in a coordinated jailbreak.


An escape from jail;
The breakout was carefully planned


Does jailbreaking work on Android?

Android devices are "rooted" for similar purposes, not jailbroken.

How do I know if my phone is locked?

If it only works with one carrier's SIM card, it's likely locked.

Is unlocking the same as jailbreaking?

No, unlocking allows use with different carriers, while jailbreaking allows for unauthorized app installation.

Is jailbreaking legal?

Yes, in many places, but it can void your warranty.

Can unlocking a phone void its warranty?

It depends on the carrier and manufacturer's policies, but less likely if carrier-approved.

How can I unlock my phone?

Contact your carrier or use a reputable third-party service.

Does jailbreaking allow installing Android on an iPhone?

No, jailbreaking does not enable installing a different operating system.

Can unlocking a phone remove a jailbreak?

No, unlocking affects carrier restrictions, not the operating system modifications.

What happens if I update my unlocked phone?

Updates should not affect network unlock status.

Can I still update my iOS after jailbreaking?

Updating an iOS device can remove the jailbreak.

Can I use any SIM after unlocking?

Yes, phones can be used with any carrier's SIM after being unlocked.

Can I unlock an iPhone myself?

It's best to have it done through the carrier or a professional service to avoid risks.

How long does unlocking take?

It can be instant or take a few days, depending on the method and carrier.

Are jailbroken devices safe?

Jailbreaking can expose devices to security risks.

Why do carriers lock phones?

To ensure the device is used exclusively on their network, often as part of a contract agreement.

What are the risks of jailbreaking?

Potential security vulnerabilities and voiding your warranty.

Is it reversible to jailbreak a device?

Yes, restoring the device to factory settings can remove the jailbreak.

Can I jailbreak the latest iOS version?

It depends on whether a jailbreak has been developed for that version.

Can jailbreaking brick my device?

While rare, improper jailbreaking can render a device inoperable.

Do I need a computer to jailbreak?

Some jailbreak methods require a computer, while others can be done directly on the device.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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