iBiblia – The Ultimate iPhone Glossary

As an iPhone user, you’ve probably found yourself in lots of “iPhone” conversations, especially lately with the release of the App Store and iPhone 3G. If throughout those conversations you’ve found yourself thinking, “Wait, isn’t jailbreaking and unlocking the same thing?” or “What does he mean by Pwnage“, then this glossary is for you.

This glossary has lamens terms explanations of every iPhone term which seemed potentially confusing.

If there’s something you’re confused about that we didn’t include, please let us know and we’ll update!

(Note: The terms are listed in a semi-alphabetical, semi-logical flow manner. For example, EDGE, 3G, and GSM follow one another because of their relation to each other rather than alphabetical order.)


Activation –

The process of registering your iPhone with Apple and AT&T. Until your iPhone is activated, it can only be used for emergency calls. While the first generation iPhone was activated via iTunes, the new iPhone 3G can only be activated in the Apple or AT&T (or your nation’s carrier) store.

Accelerometer –

A tiny 3 axis device which comprehends the iPhone’s physical position. It can tell when the iPhone is being tilted, rotated, or moved. It inhances iPhone gaming tenfold.

Bricking –

To take all function away from an iPhone or iPod Touch hence rendering it as nothing more than a shiny “brick”. Sometimes firmware updates cause temporary bricking off the iPhone, for updates often fail or come with bugs. It is for this reason that you should frequently back up your iPhone.


Baseband –

The iPhone consists of “two parts”, a computer half and a modem half. Each half has an operating system. There is an OS for the computer half of your iPhone, and there’s an OS for the modem half called the Baseband. The Baseband handles all things “cell phone” related. In order to unlock the iPhone to use it with non-official carriers (i.e. T-Mobile in USA) the Baseband is what must be hacked. An iPod Touch lacks the “Baseband” half, hence its inability to execute phone calls.


Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution. EDGE is a method of providing “mobile internet”, and is no faster than a 56K dial up modem. EDGE was the only internet connection for the first generation iPhone (other than WiFi), while the iPhone 3G has the option for 3G and EDGE. The iPhone 3G only resorts to EDGE when there is no 3G connection in the area. EDGE is considered old technology.

3G –

3G is the third generation of mobile phone standards and technology. Just like EDGE, it’s a method of providing a mobile internet connection. It is twice as fast (if not more) as EDGE, and has connection speeds similar to broadband. 3G includes HSPA (High Speed Packet Access) data transmission capabilities and is able to deliver speeds up to 14.4Mbit/s down and 5.8 Mbit/s up.

Whether a device has EDGE or 3G is determined by the hardware inside the phone. The difference between an iPhone 3G and an original iPhone which gives it 3G speeds is an actual chip. (That should settle the questions like, “How do I hack my original iPhone so it can have 3G?”…You can’t.)


Global System for Mobile Communications. GSM is a cellular network which mobile phones connect to by searching for a specific frequency in its vicinty. In USA and Canada, GSM uses the 850MHz and 1900MHz frequencies.  GSM is the most popular mobile standard in the world, with over 3 billion users in 212 countries.


File System –

The methods and data structures that an operating system uses to keep track of files on a disk or partition. The iPhone’s file system uses two “disks”. One is public and stores your media (songs, videos, photos, apps). The other is private and contains all the techy files that keep your iPhone’s firmware running. Jailbreaking the iPhone requires access to the private file system, which could be gained by using SSH.

Firmware –

The iPhone’s built-in operating system. It controls both the “computer” portion of your iPhone and the baseband portion. There are periodic updates to the iPhone’s firmware. We have already lived through (1.0, 1.1.1, 1.1.2, 1.1.3, 1.1.4, 2.0, 2.0.1)


SSH is a command line program that allows you to remotely establish a secure connection between your computer and your iPhone. Using SSH, you can access the iPhone’s file system from your computer and securely transfer and alter files. Although the average user will never use SSH, it’s a very common tool in the jailbroken community, and is a must for all developers.

Jailbreak –

To gain access to the iPhone’s private file system, hence gaining the ability to override some of the iPhone’s restrictions. The use of jailbreaking an iPhone is to gain the ability to install third party applications.


Jailbroken Apps –

Third party applications which run only on iPhones that have been jailbroken (aka have had their private file system opened). These applications are not approved by Apple. Jailbroken apps can be downloaded from various repositories using Installer or Cydia.

Installer.app –

Installer.app is a 3rd party application which functions as a package manager for the jailbroken iPhone. It allows access to many repositories from which you can download other third party applications. In other words, it’s like an underground App Store.

Official Site

Cydia –

Just like Installer.app, Cydia is a 3rd party app which allows access to lots of other app downloads. Cydia and Installer are competitors, and you can have both on your jailbroken iPhone.

Official Site

App Store –

An official Apple store which sells third party applications via iTunes. All App Store applications must be developed using the iPhone SDK and must be approved by Apple. Apple collects 30% of the app’s price, and the developer keeps 70%.

Pwnage –

A program for Mac computers used to make custom firmware which after being loaded onto an iPhone or iPod Touch, jailbreaks and/or unlocks the device.

WinPwn –

The Windows version of the Pwnage Tool.


Unlock –

Making the iPhone operable with unofficial carriers. This is done by hacking the iPhone’s baseband, and could be accomplished by using the Pwnage tool. There are also “SIM unlock cards” which claim to unlock the iPhone by altering the SIM card.


iPhone Dev Team –

The group of hackers who created the Pwnage tool. They’re the minds behind the whole jailbreaking and unlocking craze.

iPhone Dev Team Portal

iPhone Dev Team Blog –

The team lists all news and progress on their blog.

iPhone Dev Team Blog

Springboard –

The iPhone’s stock software that runs your home screen from which you launch all applications. It’s the “black-background-with-icons-on-it” screen. The Springboard and icons can be altered only on jailbroken iPhones.


From now on, you’ll be the one leading the conversation, causing other amateur iPhone users to scratch their heads and say, “Huh?”. However, unlike the people who caused your former confusion, you’ll be kind enough to use your new found knowledge to answer all their iPhone questions.

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Jarrett Gucci
Jarrett Gucci 289 posts

Jarrett Gucci is the owner of Dynasty Web Solutions. A full service Internet presence provider specializing in WordPress development for business owners. Jarrett Gucci along with his team of professionals have designed over 400 WordPress websites. Jarrett Gucci believes strongly in creating websites that are unique, functional and generate referrals.

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