These two different processes are often confused with each other because they are both legal changes that can happen on mobile phones. They can even complement each other, but they are certainly entirely different things.

As stated previously by us in our article What is Phone Unlocking, it is the process of removing a network lock on a phone, placed there by a manufacturer on behalf of a network. The phone will then only accept SIM cards from that network and needs to be unlocked to accept others. Jailbreaking, also extremely similar to rooting, is part of a much different process.

When a phone is jailbroken or rooted, the user is changing the software being run on the phone, allowing it to make use of alternative software that the phone won’t accept in its default state. With iPhone handsets, a jailbreak allows the phone to download and run applications that Apple had not agreed to make available through the App store. Apple themselves have protested against the legality of jailbreaking their iPhone handsets because they believe there product should be kept the way it is to avoid piracy. However, jailbreaking an iPhone or iPad doesn’t necessarily mean that the device will be used for things relating to piracy, as a jailbroken handset is also able to change the default application used for things like checking emails or browsing the internet.

Rooting is extremely similar to jailbreaking, but more commonly refers to a change in the Operating System (OS) of the phone. Often the process is carried out on Android based handsets and involves the user accessing the “root” information of the phone, which they are able to change to suit how they want to use it. This process has often been encouraged by manufacturers such as HTC, who often release information regarding unlocking the bootloader on a phone, which is a necessary part of the rooting process.