(By the way, when I talk about “hacking” your iPhone, I mean closer to “modding”. I’m interested in running third-party native applications on my iPhone, and don’t care as much about unlocking the iPhone to work with other carriers.)
I’m amazed at the pace of iPhone hacking. Even a week ago, you’d see multi-step guides to installing apps on an iPhone. Now there’s a program (Installer.app) with a front-end called AppTapp that does everything in a nice graphical user interface (GUI) for you. You don’t have to type a single command, but you will need an Apple computer (either Intel-based or PowerPC-based works).
Disable automatic sync in iTunes
First, plug your iPhone into your computer so that iTunes comes on. On the left-hand side of the screen under “Devices” click on your iPhone, and then on the page that comes up, click so that “Automatically sync when this iPhone is connected” is OFF. It looks like this:
(By the way, to grab a screenshot of a window on a Mac and save it to the desktop, you need to hit Command-Shift-4, then the space bar, then click a window. Sheesh.)
Download and run AppTapp
The combination of AppTapp and Installer.app lets you add applications to your iPhone with almost no effort:
– Make sure that iTunes isn’t running. Plug your iPhone into your Apple computer and make sure that iTunes didn’t start running.
– Download AppTapp to your Apple computer from http://iphone.nullriver.com/beta/
– Run it.
That’s pretty much it. iPhone Atlas has the best walkthrough I’ve seen if you want more details about AppTapp/Installer.app or what to do after you’ve run AppTapp. The short version is to update Installer.app first (touch the “Update” tab). Next you want to install the Launcher program (you can only see 16 icons on your iPhone, so installing Launcher ensures that one of those first 16 icons can access other applications).
After that, you’ve got a lot of options. The “Community Sources” package will give you even more choices for applications to install. Installing “OpenSSH” and “BSD Subsystem” is also recommended. Finally, if you install the MobileTerminal application, you can experience the joy of typing “ls” on your iPhone. Walking around with UNIX in your pocket is very nice. See the iPhone Atlas guide for screenshots and more info.
If you want to impress your fellow geeks, Lights Off was the first native game for the iPhone and it also looks great. My brother and I had a similar “turn the lights out” game when we were growing up, but it was called Merlin. Now you can play this game on much prettier handheld appliance.
If you’re a Windows person and can’t beg/borrow a Mac from anyone, you might check out iBrickr. It lets you manage ringtones and applications on your iPhone.
If you don’t want to go the AppTapp/Installer.app way on a Mac, you might also check out iFuntastic. iFuntastic lets you tinker with all kinds of things, from ring tones to applications to multiple “home screens.” Each home screen can have a different set of icons. Version 3 was released just a few days ago and the new version adds PowerPC support.
As always, back up your data first, and any of this could (in theory) break your iPhone. I don’t think anything I’ve mentioned would get you in trouble with lawyerfolk, but if you’re worried, you can always play it safe and stick with the built-in applications on the iPhone. If you see errors above or know of another interesting way to install native third-party applications on an iPhone, please mention it in the comments.