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The iOS operating system for the iPhone doesn’t feature a fully customizable user interface. This article demonstrates how to customize the iPhone without jailbreaking.
Apple’s mobile computing efforts are focused. They’re dedicated to providing a fast, robust and efficient mobile operating system. Some critics apply a gross generalization and contend that all Apple products are not customizable. This isn’t true. macOS is a highly customizable operating system. It’s actually the most customizable consumer-oriented operating system. Linux is more customizable, and although there are user-friendly distributions, desktop Linux is not mainstream.
Why Isn’t iOS Customizable?
Although the iPhone runs a capable processor, a computer is generally more powerful. The iPhone is a very compact device. To make the device smaller and power efficient, Apple had to use components suitable for mobile devices. The A-series processors aren’t as powerful as Intel processors found in a Macintosh. The iPhone only has 2GB of RAM. Older iPhones only had 512MB of RAM. This would be bare bones specs for a Macintosh, however, it works well for the iPhone.
With scaled down hardware, an operating system must also be trimmed of excesses for optimal performance. There are other mobile operating systems featuring full customization, but this comes at a cost. These devices don’t offer the multimedia capabilities of the iPhone. In fact, zero latency audio is relatively new for these devices. Apple’s mobile devices have had zero latency audio from day one. This is a necessity if you want to create music or experience the best games on a mobile device. I personally prefer multimedia performance over customization. Indeed, if customization was truly valued by consumers, Linux would be the most popular desktop operating system.
Apple’s competitors actually debated whether or not to allow some of the customization options. They knew that technologies such as widgets and animated wallpaper would drain batteries and slow down devices. However, they wanted to give people the option, and moreover, differentiate their product from the iPhone. Contrary to what some believe, Apple knew about widgets for a long time. In fact, OS X had widgets a decade before smartphones even existed. Apple just felt that they weren’t appropriate for mobile devices. A lot of the nifty customization options found in other mobile operating systems were actually borrowed from the Mac. It’s sadly ironic that when Apple implements them on the iPhone, people cry foul that they’re copying others. No. They’re copying the Mac.
Priorities differ between the pillars of technology. Apple does a lot of market research. They discovered that most users don’t care about customization. In fact, HTC did a study and found that widgets aren’t widely used. Having had widgets on the Mac for such a long time, Apple (and their customers) knew that they weren’t a big deal.
Apple eventually added animated wallpaper and widgets to iOS. This was never about intellectual capabilities. It was always about priorities. They knew customers wanted mobile devices to be optimized for apps. I’d rather make music with GarageBand or play an amazing game than fiddle with widgets. We have widgets now, although they are rigidly implemented. Again, a lot of these constraints have to do with performance. A UI container that is fully customizable has to load quickly. The more customizable it is, the more it will detract from app performance. It’s a balancing act and I think Apple got it right. If you value customization over app performance, the standard iPhone isn’t a good option. You can jailbreak an iPhone or just get a different device.
Jailbreaking Has Its Risks
Jailbreaking is the process of escalating privileges in iOS. Contrary to popular belief, the term wasn’t coined as a criticism of Apple. Instead, it originated from the practice of escalating privileges on the FreeBSD Unix operating system. A jailbroken iPhone has the ability to run apps downloaded outside of the App Store. More importantly, it can extend the iOS operating system. This allows users to fully customize the iPhone, as they may do with other smartphones. Of course, some of these customization options will slow down your device, which could compromise the performance of processor-intensive apps. next page →