Once the hobby of tech geeks, iPhone jailbreaking is now a lucrative business.  In the U.S., the primary jailbroken app store, Cydia — named after the insect that bores into apple trees — earned about US$10 million in annual revenue and counted about 4.5 million weekly active users hunting for apps, according to a report in the Washington Post last April.

In China, jail-breakers mainly use 91 Assistant to download apps onto their iPhones.  91 Assistant is offered by Fuzhou-based NetDragon Websoft, which earned Rmb 70-80 million in revenue from the smartphone management tool last year.  The tool also has an Android version. Currently, about 70-80% of iPhone and 40-50% of Android phone users in China use 91 Assistant.  It is one of the most important distribution channels for mobile apps in China.

NetDragon has already spun off the mobile division, 91 Limited, and plans to list it in either the United States or Hong Kong, chief financial officer Joe Wu said.

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Sherman So

Author of Red Wired: China's Internet Revolution, the first book to completely survey the nature of China's internet. (http://redwiredrevolution.com/) She previously was the lead China technology reporter...