It appears the Rabbit R1 AI gadget is merely an Android app

Since its launch last week, Rabbit’s R1 AI gadget has sparked numerous questions, primarily revolving around why it isn’t simply an app. Mishaal Rahman from Android Authority also had the question and did some digging, and it appears it actually is just an app.

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Rahman managed to get his hands on Rabbit’s launcher APK and installed it on a Google Pixel 6A. With a bit of tinkering, he got the app up and running, mimicking the experience of using Rabbit’s dedicated device. By using the volume-up key in lieu of the R1’s hardware button, Rahman successfully set up an account and started interacting with it, similar to using the $199 R1.

However, Rahman noted that the app may not offer all the functionalities of the R1 device. He mentioned, “the Rabbit R1’s launcher app is intended to be preinstalled in the firmware and be granted several privileged, system-level permissions — only some of which we were able to grant — so some of the functions would likely fail if we tried.” Nonetheless, the fact that the software functions on a midrange phone from almost two years ago implies that it shares similarities with a standard Android app.

Contrary to this view, Rabbit’s founder and CEO, Jesse Lyu, argues that the R1 is not merely an Android app. According to Lyu, “Rabbit R1 is not an Android app… 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.”

While Rabbit R1 is not the only device using a version of Android’s open-source software, it’s currently facing scrutiny as early reviews surface—and they’re less than stellar. Rabbit issued its first software update today to address various complaints, including a battery drain issue. Post-update, the battery performance during idle mode appears significantly improved.

However, the overarching concern remains that the R1 lacks sufficient utility to justify its existence when smartphones already fulfil similar functions. It seems that this AI gadget might have been better off as a simple app after all.