"Semi-Tethered" iOS 5 Jailbreak Now Available

Less than a month after its launch, savvy hackers have already developed a jailbreak for iOS 5.

“Jailbreaking” or “unlocking” is the practice of disabling the default factor settings and restrictions of a device, allowing the user to log into the root system and install customized applications, themes, utilities, and additional software packages not officially sanctioned by Apple.

Rumors of the latest hack circulated over Twitter and the Mac blogs since iOS 5 hit in mid-October, but were never officially confirmed.

BigBoss.org and Jay Freeman, the founder of black-market app store Cydia, now report that a “semi-tethered” jailbreak is available in beta testing, for those who know where to look.

"Tethering” is the capability for a mobile phone to share a wireless data connection with other internet- equipped devices.

Updating to the latest Apple-released firmware also breaks the last build and returns the device to default settings: all Cydia apps, customizations, themes, and tweaks are erased.

A multi-platform and Windows-only tethered jailbreak for iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4, iPod Touch, first-generation iPad and iPad 2 had been previously available, but each time the device powered down the user needed to plug into a computer, re-boot, and unlock again.

The new build has revived the age-old debate on the merits and dangers of jailbreaking.

While offering greater customization and a wider range of apps, it can introduce bugs, causing the battery to drain, sluggish performance, and constant crashes.

“Apple’s goal has always been to insure that our customers have a great experience and we know that jailbreaking can severely degrade the experience,” said an Apple spokeswoman. “The vast majority of customers do not jailbreak their iPhones as this can violate the warranty and can cause the iPhone to become unstable and not work reliably.”

The jailbreak is not compatible with the new iPhone 4S.