Apple's iOS 4 enables multitasking and other new and useful features, but the iPad can't join the party until this fall. If you jailbreak your iPad, however, you can multitask today, and that's just the beginning.
Your jailbroken iPad can run all kinds of third-party apps far beyond the selection in Apple's App Store. Want to sync over Wi-Fi, connect a Bluetooth GPS or mouse and browse the entire iPad file structure? Here's how.
Jailbreaking your iPad lets you install third party utilities and applications. (That's different from "unlocking," which allows you to use a device with a different phone carrier.) When jailbroken, the iPad becomes an actual computer in that you can tweak the interface and make modifications at the lowest levels. This is a double-edged sword: You could run unstable tools or even damage your device, although that's highly unlikely. Remember that with your jailbroken iPad, Apple isn't around to tell you what you can and can't do with it, for better or for worse.
Fortunately, if you pay attention to what you're doing, you can run the warranty voiding process without incident, and if you change your mind later, you can return to Apple's default, locked-down environment.
How to jailbreak your iPad
As with all major installations, begin with a backup. Connect the iPad to your computer. In the left iTunes column, right-click the iPad's name, and pick Backup. You can restore your data from here if needed.
Download Spirit to jailbreak the iPad. Note that the jailbreak process depends highly on your version of iTunes and iOS. As of this writing, Spirit hadn't yet been updated to work with iTunes 9.2, be sure that you have an older version of iTunes or that Spirit now supports iTunes 9.2 before proceeding. The jailbreaking community usually compensates for Apple's updates within several days or weeks.
Unplug other iPod devices, and connect your iOS 3.2 iPad directly to your computer. Run Spirit. The process will modify and restart the iPad, leave everything alone until the process is complete. Did it work? Great.
If it didn't work, as happened to me initially, quit Spirit and restore your iPad in iTunes. If iTunes won't even recognise the iPad, kick it into DFU (device firmware upgrade) mode. Connect the iPad, and hold the lock and home buttons for 10 seconds. Release the lock button, but continue holding the home button. The screen should stay black, but the iPad should appear in iTunes. Restore the iPad, and then reattempt the jailbreak.
Again, if you ever get cold feet and want to revert to your iPad's original state, just restore the iPad in iTunes. If iTunes doesn't recognise the iPad, put it in DFU mode first.
What to do after you jailbreak your iPad
After completing the jailbreak, you'll see a new icon named Cydia. This is the centre for downloading free and paid apps and tweaks. These apps coexist with your App Store programs, so you don't have to commit to one or the other.
Cydia connects to various sources to download and install packages. Though Cydia includes its trusted sources by default, you can add others. (I'll explain how later.) You can also download other stores, such as Rock App; Rock even includes a way for you to try demos of many downloads before purchase.
When you launch Cydia, it will check the version numbers of your apps against its latest files and prompt you to install updates if necessary. Even if you don't want any more apps, open Cydia once in a while to look for updates.
Before you dig through the Cydia options, back up your iPad's ECID SHSH, an identification code that Apple uses to determine which devices can install what firmware, with the Cydia server. If, in the future, you accidentally install an iOS update that defeats jailbreaking, you should be able to use this backup to revert to the prior, jailbreak-friendly version of the OS. Within Cydia, approve the backup when first prompted with a dialog box, or pick the option within the main page.
Your iPad also now has a default, root login that anyone could guess. Since Cydia and various apps can enable additional network functionality, set a new password. Follow the directions under 'Root Password How-To' in Cydia. Basically, you'll install a terminal program and enter a few commands.
Apple's iOS 4 only partially multitasks. Apps need to be written for multitasking, the feature isn't enabled for everything, and further restrictions dictate what apps can do in the background. With a jailbroken iPad, however, you can multitask with any app. This comes in handy in various ways, permitting you to leave a cooking-timer app active, for instance, or to pause a game that doesn't save.
To add multitasking, install Backgrounder (free). Tap Search within Cydia to find it.
If you press the home button, the iPad will quit apps as it normally does. But if you hold the button for several seconds, a message will appear, saying that the program will keep running in the background. (If you want to quit an app later, repeat this process to exit completely.)
Keep an eye out, too, for an iPad update to the Multifl0w iPhone tool. This multitasking add-on swaps between active applications, showing a preview of the other apps.