Let’s face it - despite the fact that there will soon be much more competition on the market, the iPhone is just about the best phone out there right now. It’s really in a class of its own as far as the user interface is concerned. One shortcoming of the iPhone, which is actually an umbrella for a whole category of shortcomings, is the lack of third-party software available for it. The iPhone does what it does better than anything else, but there are plenty of things that it doesn’t do (as seen here). Apple has said that they will launch an iPhone store, in which users may download new applications, in June, but that doesn’t help us in the meantime. Thankfully, there are some talented hackers in the world who’ve dedicated lots of time and effort into making the iPhone that much better by creating their own applications to make up for what the iPhone lacks.

Before you can use those third-party apps, though, you need to jailbreak your iPhone. Not familiar with jailbreaking? It’s a term used to describe the process of opening your iPhone to third-party (non-Apple) applications. Jailbreaking is actually very easy, but using third-party applications isn’t for everyone; it does require patience (since not all third-party apps are stable) and a tad of general geekery would help too.

To get started, just download ZiPhone; install it; run it; and hit the jailbreak button in the ZiPhone application while your iPhone is connected to your computer. ZiPhone will handle all the dirty work, making the process of opening your iPhone up to third-party applications a breeze. As long as you’re running firmware 1.1.4, there’s virtually zero risk in jailbreaking your iPhone. Should you ever need to un-jailbreak (jailfix?) your iPhone back to the original factory settings, you can easily do so from iTunes.

Jailbreaking your iPhone is the very first step in maximizing your iPhone. Once your iPhone is jailbroken, you’ll notice a new icon on your iPhone’s main display called Installer. This is the tool that will allow you to download and install all sorts of nifty apps. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series, which will talk about which of these apps are worth spending time on and what they do (read: why you really want to go through the trouble of jailbreaking your iPhone in the first place).