Cydia Opens Rogue App Store for Jailbroken iPhones

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iPhone users who’ve taken the plunge and jailbroken their Apple iPhone, enabling them to install third party software, applications, and tools not offered or supported by Apple. Although jailbreaking an iPhone takes users out of Apple’s protected circle of support—and makes updating and managing an iPhone considerably more involved—there’s no doubt that there’s a thriving community of users and developer who are happily jailbreaking their iPhones to get new or augmented toys. Now Jay Freeman, the developer of the Cydia installer for jailbroken iPhones, has unveiled a Cydia App Store, which essentially creates a direct payment system whereby users can pay developers for third party iPhone Apps directly from Cydia distributions.

Cydia has previously offered paid applications for the iPhone, but users had to go to the developers directly to pay. The Cydia App Store removes that step, and Freeman says Cydia will charge no more than Apple’s commission for handling the transaction.

Examples of iPhone applications that are available via Cydia include games like macman (a Pac-Man-like game), the camcorder applications Cycoder, and the tethering applications PdaNet, which enables users to use the iPhone’s cellular data capability via a Wi-Fi connection. Cydia repositories frequently sport applications that are not available the the iTunes App Store, in many cases because they violate Apple’s still largely non-articulated rules about what kinds of applications are permissible.

Cydia does not assist with jailbreaking an iPhone; users who have already jailbroken their iPhones can add the Cydia distribution as an Installer source to install it.

Although there are no firm numbers, estimates place the number of jailbroken iPhones and iPod touch units currently in use over 2 million.

Cydia’s app store may be the development that finally brings Apple’s well-funded legal department after the jailbreaking community; according to reports, Freeman has already retained legal counsel. if so, Apple will likely argue that jailbreaking violates the DMCA by deliberately circumventing copy protection mechanisms. However, courts have generally ruled that while the DMCA can be applied to cases of copyright infringement it is not intended to let copyright holders extend copyright monopolies and inhibit competition. The Electronic Frontier Foundation last year proposed a modification to the DMCA that would specifically legalize jailbreaking; Apple filed a response in February opposing the move, arguing it would undermine security and stability.