How to Use Your Smartphone (Now That It’s Unlocked)

New legislation allows you to jailbreak your cell. Time to learn how to really use it.

Smartphone owners (everyone) read the news on their iPhones, Galaxies, and HTC Ones: Obama had sign the almost cleverly named “Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act.” There was a lot of verbiage after that, but the actual ramification of those newspaper stories was that consumers could now jailbreak their cell phones, removing the built-in restrictions tethering devices to specific networks and limiting access to non-manufacturer approved apps.

In essence, your smartphone now belongs to you in a way it never has before. Here’s how to use it:

Switch Networks

This is the primary purpose of unlocking your phone so it’s the first thing you should be doing. Obama’s decision is grounded in cellular affordability but that’s hardly our concern. We’re switching carriers* to send a message and we don’t mean a text. With any luck, it’s a message that will cause more competition among the cellular titans and better service for every user.

*Quick warning; Unlocking your phone does not actually change its hardware. If it’s built to work on Verizon’s CDMA network (which doesn’t use SIM cards) moving to AT&T’s GSM network (which does) is impossible. Do your homework before flipping off the employees at your local cell store.

Use Banned Apps

There’s a world of apps out there that you’ll never see in Apple’s App Store, apps that do things good corporate citizens would rather you didn’t do. Jailbreaking your phone gives you access to a gray market app store called Cydia and Cydia is your portal to programs that will tweak and change anything and everything in Apple’s iOS – if you’re willing to install uncertified software. Backup all those numbers and start exploring.

A good place to begin: Nitrous. Apple intentionally slows down Chrome in iOS. Speed it back up and stop using Safari. No one wants to use Safari.

Protect Your Data

Passwords and encryptions are all well and good, but a phone forgotten in a cab is still a vulnerability we’d prefer to avoid. Jailbreak apps like BioProtect allow you to put the iPhone’s fingerprint scanner between users and specific apps, meaning you can password protect individual apps, messages, phone calls, and photos.

Avoid the Ads

You don’t browse the web on your computer without AdBlock, why would you subject yourself to ads on your phone? By stripping away the software restrictions on your mobile, you can add programs that will shield you from the pop-ups and spam pages that everyone detests.

Use Your Phone Abroad

You can’t be expected to Instagram your pics of the Sistine Chapel on the burner phone you bought in Rome. Unlocking your phone doesn’t just let you pop in the SIM card of your current carrier’s competitors, it also lets you use carriers interchangeably: AT&T’s network at home stateside, Italy’s TIM Network when you’re cruising past the Colosseum on a Vespa; Orange while clubbing in St. Tropez. You’ll want to post those pictures immediately.

Photos by Getty Images