The Rabbit R1 makes the Humane AI Pin look amazing because at least that device is trying something new

Rabbit R1 next to Nothing Phone 2
(Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Android enthusiasts not only uncovered that the Rabbit R1 runs the Android Open Source Project but also that its launcher APK can run on regular Android phones. 
  • Android expert Mishaal Rahman managed to get Rabbit's launcher working on a Google Pixel 6a smartphone. 
  • Rabbit released an official statement saying that "Rabbit R1 is not an Android app," but some points in the statement are contradictory. 

With the launch of new AI-powered hardware concepts, such as the Humane AI Pin and the Rabbit R1, there has been a lot of discussion about what constitutes a finished product. More importantly, talk about what the future of hardware devices beyond smartphones will look like is surfacing. Are they wearable, screen-free devices like the AI Pin? Is it tiny companion devices like the Rabbit R1? Perhaps it looks something more like Meta Ray-Ban Glasses, which are discreet and less ambitious wearables. 

The real answer is anyone's guess, and we can only evaluate the products we have right now. Due to the Rabbit R1's current limitations, some have postulated that the entire thing could have been an app. Well, new evidence came out today suggesting that might be true. Multiple social media users claimed to have gained either root access to the Rabbit R1 or its launcher APK, and Android Authority's Mishaal Rahman managed to get that launcher running on a regular Android phone. 

First, it was revealed that the Rabbit R1 uses AOSP as its base operating system, just like the Humane AI Pin. This isn't exactly surprising because the AOSP is the go-to starting point for basically everyone looking to build their own OS. What was surprising is that we learned the Rabbit R1 can be rooted to run regular Android apps, according to videos posted to YouTube that were since made private. We later learned that Rabbit's entire operating system can be run on stock Android phones as long as they have the right launcher APK. 

Settings menu on the Rabbit R1

(Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

Essentially, Rahman was able to install the launcher APK on a Pixel 6 Pro smartphone just like any other Android launcher. (Well, plus a bit of expected tinkering.) That means the Rabbit R1 is, essentially, just an app. Rahman set up the Rabbit launcher APK on the Pixel 6 Pro just like a standalone Rabbit R1 device, and it worked for a brief period before Rabbit seemingly blocked that phone's IP address. 

Rabbit co-founder and CEO Jesse Lyu took to X (formerly Twitter) to try and dispute these claims. Lyu's statements focus on aspects of the Rabbit R1 device that were never in question, like its LLMs and LAMs running in the cloud. Here's the full statement Lyu gave to multiple publications on Tuesday(April 30), "rabbit r1 is not an Android app. We are aware there are some unofficial rabbit OS app/website emulators out there. We understand the passion that people have to get a taste of our AI and LAM instead of waiting for their r1 to arrive.

That being said, to clear any misunderstanding and set the record straight, rabbit OS and LAM run on the cloud with very bespoke AOSP and lower level firmware modifications, therefore a local bootleg APK without the proper OS and Cloud endpoints won’t be able to access our service. rabbit OS is customized for r1 and we do not support third-party clients.

Using a bootlegged APK or web client carries significant risks; malicious actors are known to publish bootlegged apps that steal your data. For this reason, we recommend that users avoid these bootlegged rabbit OS apps."

The statement and its technical jargon still don't change the facts: there is strong evidence that Rabbit OS behaves like an Android app. That was proven multiple times by multiple people on Tuesday, including Rahman. It's a big problem for Rabbit, and it's something that the company should not just dismiss lightly. 

No matter what Rabbit says, this is a huge problem

Rabbit R1 propped up in case

(Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

Before these developments came to light, there were already concerns that the Rabbit R1 was essentially just ChatGPT in a bright form factor designed by Teenage Engineering. This is a bit of an exaggeration because the Rabbit R1 uses a LAM to complete actions for you, like ordering food from Doordash or hailing an Uber. However, in Lyu's own live demo ordering food from Doordash on Rabbit R1, the device failed on the first try and took absurdly long on the second try. In another real-world instance, it took the Rabbit R1 a whopping five-and-a-half minutes to get to the "place order" screen before failing, as shown in a video by Stephen Robles.

Rabbit R1's unfinished state, plus the fact that its interface can be added to an Android phone, is a bad look. Just take a peek at what it's like to use Rabbit software on Rahman's Pixel 6 Pro:

Lyu's statement, which says that Rabbit's operating system and LAM run in the cloud, doesn't change anything. There is still a hardware-level interface on the Rabbit R1 that connects with these cloud servers, and it's based on AOSP. Having software based on AOSP is not a problem, but tying a hardware device that doesn't provide much additional value than a smartphone is a big one. 

There's a place for dedicated hardware, but it has to be more than just an app

Trying to set a timer on the Rabbit R1

(Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

The bigger issue with the Rabbit R1 and how its software seemingly runs as an Android app affects more than just this device. Consumers are on the warpath against dedicated hardware, tearing the Humane AI Pin and the Rabbit R1 to shreds on social media. Humane and Rabbit's choice to rush their products to market gives weight and validity to the argument that we don't need new hardware form factors.

However, it is disingenuous at best and scammy at worst to roll up what is essentially an Android app into a hardware device for no real purpose. At least in the case of the Humane AI Pin, there's truly new hardware and a clever form factor. That doesn't appear to be the case with the Rabbit R1.

We'll see how it all pans out, with Rabbit promising future updates and appearing to try and lock down unauthorized access to the company's cloud servers. For now, it seems like there is weight to skeptics' arguments that the Rabbit R1 could have been an app. 

Brady Snyder

Brady is a tech journalist covering news at Android Central. He has spent the last two years reporting and commenting on all things related to consumer technology for various publications. Brady graduated from St. John's University in 2023 with a bachelor's degree in journalism. When he isn't experimenting with the latest tech, you can find Brady running or watching sports.