Although Apple TV started as a fun thing to play around with, it became a genuine replacement for cable TV over the years. And while it’s still less popular than other Apple products, it’s slowly getting there. Its success is almost inevitable now that we witness theaters being replaced with streaming on-demand, and TV channels are watched over the Internet. But one question remains, “what’s wrong with its off-the-shelf version?” The answer is – nothing in particular. But, the device, particularly its older versions, is capable of so much more. For specifics, let’s get into reasons why jailbreak Apple TV.
Is jailbreaking Apple TV illegal? No, jailbreaking Apple TV is not illegal. However, it will void your warranty, and make licensed repairs impossible. However, this only happens if they discover you’ve done it. Read reason #1 for more.
We do not encourage jailbreaking unless your warranty is already expired or you want to experiment with the device for some reason. This article is for informational purposes only. Go ahead at your own risk.
1. It’s reversible
Perhaps the most convincing reason to jailbreak Apple TV is that you can take it all back. You can reverse all changes by triggering an automatic operating system (tOS) update. If the update isn’t available, genuine Apple TV firmware can be flashed, reverting changes to default. The third option is the jailbreak itself, which often offers the option of restoring Apple TV to factory settings. So, as long as it isn’t completely dead, you can still take advantage of a valid Apple warranty.
2. Power of customization
This is the most powerful benefit of Apple TV jailbreaking. While it isn’t as significant on newer models, especially Apple TV 3 and later, it can be a saving grace for older ones. You can install custom launchers, alongside plugins, themes, and widgets displaying weather and thumbnail slideshows, for example. They also allow you to adjust the screen saver, color palette, hide certain menus or add shortcuts to the main menu.
3. Media library expansion
This is the true power of Apple TV, especially those released before Apple TV 3. You indeed have access to media apps by default, such as YouTube, Netflix, iTunes, NHL, Vimeo, etc. Unfortunately, Apple TV hardware can struggle sometimes, especially if the updates were discontinued.
Offline and online media players
Installing all-in-one media portals such as NitoTV or XBMC (named Kodi on newer versions of the app) makes way for an influx of content, legal and/or pirated. You can install efficient media players, which are known to remove or reduce buffering on local files that existed before jailbreaking Apple TV. You can also add change subtitle style, add languages, and overall have a better viewing experience. Jailbreaking also provides a way to access new TV channels and streaming apps, that weren’t supported or didn’t want to pay licenses to Apple. This includes many Netflix alternatives, as well as local streaming services such as Plex. Finally, you can not only pick gorgeous themes, but also install plugins for bonus functionality, and rearrange media files and make intuitive playlists, and make navigating massive media libraries easy.
3. Access to unauthorized apps
We mentioned this as one of the main reasons to jailbreak the iPhone, which remains true for the Apple TV. These apps can bring a host of quality-of-life improvements, and allow full control of the device. The best part? You can keep Apple TV features intact, but choose to bypass the default Apple TV GUI and boot into custom ones from the get-go.
Cydia Store/Cydia Substrate
Cydia is the first and most popular unofficial App Store for jailbroken Apple devices, mainly iOS, but also with a Substrate version for tOS apps. Best choice for discovering apps individually, and modifying Apple TV on your own.
aTV Flash is the top all-in-one tOS alternative. The Apple TV features remain untouched, but they’re just improved upon. You get a host of other benefits, including a web browser, file organizer, hardware decoding, codec and media playback expansion, RSS features, automatic subtitle download, network bandwidth and speed improvements, automatic backup to Amazon S3 cloud servers, and much more. So, what’s the downside, and why would anyone use Cydia? Well, the aTV Flash (black) version for Apple TV 2 costs $29 (one-time fee). Plus, there is 2 more software you can buy separately for other Apple TV versions.
4. Device control
The physical Apple TV remote indeed does the job okay. The official iTunes Remote brings bonus capabilities, allowing connection with Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad. And while you can remote control your Apple TV from the aforementioned devices, and even play music via AirPlay. But this is only possible for newer Apple TVs. In other words, the older Apple TVs, especially the first and second generation, will never gain this modern functionality. For many, this is a valuable motive to jailbreak Apple TV and install custom remote control apps. They will extend the devices’ lifespan for years (if not decades) past its intended time of obsolescence.
5. Web browsing
Did we specify that a web browser doesn’t exist for Apple TV? We’re still not sure why it’s so hard to port Safari from iOS to tOS, but alas, that’s how things stand. Well, that changes with a jailbroken Apple TV. If you don’t want to pay for the aforementioned packages, there are separate browser apps with HTTP5 support. And, since they use WebKit, the search engine used by Apple devices and Linux, you’re not at a disadvantage.
6. Easy and secure data transfer
Obviously, the primary benefit is that you get access to the full file system of the Apple TV which was previously forbidden. Furthermore, you gain the ability to use SSH (Secure Shell) protocol that can help transfer data over the network securely, using encryption. You’ll also discover that, even though you can’t get access to the iCloud data, you can still extract the iCloud authentication token. This can help you access some iCloud data, mostly iCloud photos – their EXIF tags and metadata. By using data recovery software, you can recover photo thumbnails from a locked iCloud account, if not more.