Jailbreaking your iPhone has a ton of benefits that give you actual control over your device—but it isn't always possible. If you're tired of waiting for the next version of iOS to be jailbroken, check out these tweaks and customizations you can make whether you're jailbroken or not.
10. Customize Ringtones and Notification Sounds, App-By-App
You probably already know that you can turn any song into a ringtone on your iPhone, and that you can assign different tones to different stock apps. However, with a little work, you can actually assign those tones to any app you want, not just the ones that come with your phone. Just download a good iPhone explorer, copy your tones to the right folders, and enjoy.
9. Integrate Non-Stock Apps
iOS won't let you change the default app for, say, getting driving directions, but you can sometimes tweak a few things to get quicker access to those third-party apps that replace Apple's boring stock ones. For example, you can use a URL trick to link Siri with Google Maps, or an SMS trick to link Siri with Astrid. Similarly, while it won't help you "replace" your stock apps, Launch Center Pro makes accessing certain actions—like sending an email with Sparrow or taking a photo with Instagram—just a simple tap away. Lots of apps are even including support for things like Chrome these days, and you can even open links in Chrome with a Safari bookmarklet, so while you can't truly change your defaults, you can get some better integration from those non-stock apps.
8. See the Actual Signal Strength in Your Menu Bar
The signal "bars" in iOS aren't exactly the pinnacle of accuracy, so if you want a better gauge of how good your service is, there's actually a hidden trick to show it in actual decibels (dBm). All it takes is a little fancy dialing and you'll have a much more accurate reading.
7. Hide Apps From Your Home Screen
Now that you've replaced Apple's boring stock apps with better ones and integrated them into the OS, what are you going to do with all those extra icons? In fact, you can hide them with a simple little trick, never to be seen again. The Newsstand is a bit trickier, but luckily you can hide that too, giving you a cleaner, more organized home screen.
6. Back Up Everything
iTunes backs up your settings every time you sync your iPhone, but it doesn't actually back up the data on your device (like music, apps, and videos) and it only keeps the latest backup around. If you want a more complete, versioned backup solution, you don't need to jailbreak—you just need a simple app called Phone Disk and a bit of command line-fu to copy everything back to your computer, so you never lose that data again.
5. Enable Multitasking Gestures and Display Mirroring on the iPad 1
Got a first-gen iPad and don't want to update just for a few measly features Apple removed? You can actually enable both multitasking gestures and display mirroring on an iPad 1 without jailbreaking (okay, we're fudging this a bit—it requires a little jailbreaking, but it isn't permanent and it'll work on any version of iOS). It's a little tricky, but its well worth it if you want those extra features.
4. Create Contact-Specific Vibrations
Giving each contact their own ringtone can be really useful, but you might not know that you can also give each of your contacts a specific vibration pattern—so even if you're on silent, you know who's calling before you even take your phone out of your pocket. The setting is hidden under Accessibility, and you can actually tap out your own cadences to create a ton of different patterns for each of your contacts, so you never need to wonder who's calling again.
3. Unlock Your iPhone for Other Carriers
The iPhone is finally available on multiple carriers in the US, but there are still a lot of carriers out there that don't support it. If you want to unlock your phone without going through the jailbreak process, you can actually buy a remote unlock from services like CutYourSim and GSM Phone Source. It'll cost you a few extra bucks, but when you're done, you'll be able to use your phone on whatever carrier you want (provided your model of iPhone supports that carrier's cell towers). Check out Boy Genius Review's testing of the process for more info.
2. Tether Your Data Connection
Tethering—that is, sharing your phone's data connection with your computer—is one of the biggest features people jailbreak for, but if you can't jailbreak (or don't want to), you can still tether your device. You can either get it straight from your carrier (which, on some data plans, is now included) or use a cheap service like Tether.com, which shares your connection through a webapp. You won't be able to get it for free or with as many features, but at least you'll be able to get internet on your laptop when you're in a bind.
1. Customize Your Home Screen
Jailbreakers have all sorts of choices when it comes to customization, but non-jailbreakers can still jazz up their home screens a little bit. A simple wallpaper can go a long way, especially if it's designed to feel like part of the interface. You can also change your iPhone's app icons without jailbreaking, and while it would take forever to get a full-blown icon theme out of it, you can at least tweak some of the icons you don't like. Check out our guide to customizing your iPhone inside and out for more ideas.