“Jailbreaking” Becoming More Prevalent in iPhone and iPod Touch Users

More and more members of the tech community are “jailbreaking” or hacking their iPhones or iPod Touches to allow the installation of third-party applications. Techies love the increased control over their devices, but jailbreaking also allows users to install free versions of paid applications. Pirated versions of this software or “cracked” apps can be downloaded from numerous file-sharing sites on the Web.

However, many users who jailbreak their devices justify the downloading and installation of pirated apps as a chance to give them a trial run before purchasing. They claim this is a necessary evil since Apple does not offer free trial periods for applications, which forces developers to offer “lighter” versions of their software. While this justification may apply to some users, other pirated apps are downloadable only as premium versions of the software. Since there are more than 85,000 applications to choose from, users say jailbreaking allows them to save money on apps that are not worth purchasing. However, application piracy statistics suggest otherwise.

A mobile analytics company, Pinch Media, shared some if its findings regarding iTunes app store piracy at a conference recently. Without explaining how it gathers information, the company said that it had been tracking jailbroken devices for several months and has begun to get a picture of the jailbreaker community and its habits. According to their research based on studying over 4 million jailbroken devices, 38 percent of users have at least one pirated application installed. The company admits that this figure may be lower than the actual number since pirates take extra measures to avoid detection.

Their research also indicated that app piracy is not limited to any market. They found that piracy rates were relatively low in Japan, the U.K. and the U.S. where iPhone users may have more disposable income to spend on premium applications. Bu they did find that app piracy is a global problem and far more common in China, Russia, Brazil and Mexico.

Their findings also found that the “try before you buy” justification for installing pirated apps was also a myth. The company found that legitimate conversion rates for people who tried the “lite” version of an app before purchasing the premium version was around 7.4 percent-or around 1 in 14 users. However, in the pirate community, the conversion rate was 0.43 percent-or 1 in 233 users.

Pinch Media also found that pirated apps are used less frequently than legitimate ones and for a shorter period. They gave several reasons for this, including the fact that jailbroken iPhones tend to crash frequently, which causes users to uninstall apps after a crash. However, pirates download and install cracked apps at their own risk. Like other pirated software, the apps they download run the risk of containing malware uploaded by unscrupulous programmers.

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