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No, you don't need a 'very bespoke AOSP' to turn your phone into a Rabbit R1 — here's proof

Rabbit claims that a “very bespoke AOSP” is needed to use their AI, but a mobile app works just fine.

Published onMay 4, 2024

  • Earlier this week, we confirmed that the Rabbit R1 — a standalone AI gadget that’s been receiving poor reviews all around — runs on Android.
  • The entire interface that users interact with on the R1 is powered by an Android app that we demonstrated can run on existing Android phones.
  • Rabbit issued a statement saying that their AI services can only be accessed on the R1 with its “very bespoke AOSP” firmware, but that isn’t true.

The Rabbit R1 fell flat on its face this week when it launched to scathing reviews across the board. Instead of living up to the hype from its CES 2024 announcement, the standalone AI gadget instead somehow managed to garner even worse reviews than the significantly more expensive Humane AI Pin. What ended up souring a lot of people’s opinions on the product was the revelation — in an Android Authority original report — that the R1 is basically an Android app in a box. Many consumers who believed that the product would be better suited as a mobile app felt validated after our report, but there was one stickler in it that we needed to address: how we got the R1 launcher up and running on an Android phone.

See, in our preliminary report, we mentioned that the Rabbit R1’s launcher app is intended to be preinstalled in the firmware and be granted several privileged, system-level permissions. While that statement is still true, we should’ve clarified that the R1 launcher doesn’t actually need those permissions. In fact, none of the system-level permissions that the R1 launcher requests are at all necessary for the app to perform its core functionality.

To prove this, we got the Rabbit R1 launcher up and running again on a stock, unrooted Android device (a Xiaomi 13T Pro), thanks to help from a team of reverse engineers including ChromMob, EmilyLShepherd, marceld505, thel3l, and uwukko. We were able to go through the entire setup process as if our device was an actual Rabbit R1. Afterwards, we were able to talk to ChatGPT, use the Vision function to identify objects, play music from Spotify, and even record voice notes.

As demonstrated in our hands-on video at the top of this article, all of the existing core functionality that the Rabbit R1 offers would work as an Android or even iOS app. The only functions that wouldn’t work are unrelated to the product’s core functionality and are things your phone can already do, such as powering off or rebooting the device, toggling Bluetooth, connecting to a cellular or Wi-Fi network, or setting a screen lock.

Rabbit Journal
Mishaal Rahman / Android Authority
A screenshot from the "rabbithole" portal showing that the queries made from my Android phone were received and recorded by Rabbit.

During our research, Android Authority was also able to obtain a copy of the Rabbit R1’s firmware. Our analysis reveals that Rabbit did not make significant modifications to the BSP (Board Support Package) provided by MediaTek. The R1, in fact, still ships with all the standard apps included in AOSP, as well as the many apps provided by MediaTek. This is despite the fact that none of these apps are needed nor ever shown to the user, obviously. Rabbit only made a few changes to the AOSP build that MediaTek provided them, such as adding the aforementioned R1 launcher app, adding a fork of the open-source “AnySoftKeyboard” app with a custom theme, adding an OTA updater app, and adding a custom boot animation.

These findings directly contradict some of the key points that Rabbit made in the statement they shared with Android Authority earlier this week. The statement, which we’ve reproduced below, suggests that our initial report was based on the use of an “unofficial rabbit OS app/website emulator,” as well as a “bootlegged APK or webclient.” This is false, as we were able to verify that our copy of the R1 launcher APK came from a genuine R1 device. The statement also says that because “rabbit OS and LAM run on the cloud with very bespoke AOSP and lower level firmware modifications,” that a “local bootleg APK without the proper OS and Cloud endpoints won’t be able to access [its] service.” The founder and CEO even took to Twitter in an attempt to taunt us about “why that bootleg apk is not working,” but given that we recorded this hands-on demo yesterday, it’s clear that a “local bootleg APK” does, in fact, work.

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 webclient 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.
— Jesse Lyu, founder and CEO of Rabbit

The purpose of this article isn’t to gloat about the fact that we got Rabbit’s services up and running on a regular Android phone. It also isn’t to provide a link to download the R1 launcher for your own use. Instead, it’s to set the record straight and refute the claim that custom hardware with “very bespoke AOSP” was necessary. Yes, it’s true that all the R1 launcher does is act as a local client to the cloud services offered by Rabbit, which is what truly handles the core functionality. It’s also true that there’s nothing wrong or unusual with companies using AOSP for their own hardware. But the fact of the matter is that Rabbit does little to justify its use of custom hardware except by making the R1 have an eye-catching design.

We’ll be posting our official verdict on the Rabbit R1 in a review in the coming days, but until then, our advice is simple: you might want to think long and hard before spending $200 to get access to a service that offers little functionality, has been proven to barely work for many of its promised features, is demonstrably less useful or user-friendly than your smartphone, and, based on everything we’ve managed to glean, could’ve just been a mobile app.

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