May 26, 2024

The Rabbit R1 doesn’t have a lot of capabilities that your phone already has. It doesn’t send emails for you. It can’t set calendar reminders or alarms. It can’t connect to any apps outside a select four that includes Spotify, Uber, DoorDash, and Midjourney. All those features may be coming in the future, but if you’re wondering why it’s not simply another AI app, a few tech bloggers managed to do just that by taking a leaked version of the Rabbit APK and run it on Android with relatively little effort. Now Rabbit’s CEO Jesse Lyu has come out to defend his $200 AI doohickey’s “bespoke” code that requires Rabbit’s own hardware.

Like the $700 Humane AI Pin before it, early reviews of the little orange Rabbit R1 and its AI assistant haven’t exactly been glowing. However, going one step further tech blogger Mishaal Rahman at Android Authority claimed he and his team managed to get Rabbit’s OS working on a Pixel 6 phone. This was using a supposedly leaked launcher APK, which Rahman managed to translate directly into an Android app.

Rabbit R1 on phone

The Rabbit R1’s screen is a mere 2.88 inches, and of such a low resolution that it only appears in the top corner of the Pixel 6 phone’s display. While it answers a basic question, Rahman didn’t test if the Rabbit’s vision or app functions worked on the phone. Still, Android Authority claimed they could sign in to a Rabbithole account (the main account for your R1), which then could connect with what seems like the same UI that Rabbit uses.

Gizmodo reached out to Rabbit for comment early Wednesday morning ET, and we were directed to a statement from Lyu reading:

“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. After today’s OTA, we implemented multiple cloud verification improvements to validate the device/client requests. We reserve all rights for any malicious and illegal cyber security activities towards our services.”

To unpack what that means, Rabbit says its device is running on modified Android Open Source Project source code, and that its OS is operating from the cloud with firmware doing extra work on-device. From the looks of things, Rahman could access some Rabbit functions that simply connected the device to the cloud servers running the AI models, though he likely couldn’t access every single Rabbit feature. A few hours after posting his article, Rahman tweeted that his Pixel 6 version of Rabbit would no longer connect, which seems to confirm Lyu’s statement about new user verification requirements.

While it’s still unclear where Rahman received the APK, there’s been a link floating around for a few weeks for what was supposedly the leaked Rabbit source code. Those leakers called the very promise of the Rabbit “a blatant lie,” claiming that the device was simply running several automation scripts and that app connectivity was merely operating on a virtual machine.

But let’s ignore the Rabbit on Android debate. That’s not really the point. As Rahman himself said, tons of startups get their projects off the ground by relying on good ol’ AOSP with hardware that already supports the Android ecosystem. The Rabbit runs on the Mediatek Helio P35 MT6765, a five-year-old ARM-based mobile CPU that can support LGE radio with up to 300 Mbps download speeds. Is that bad? No, not necessarily. Rabbit hasn’t lied about what the Rabbit is capable of, but the question we should be asking is does it do anything it claims to well enough to justify the asking price.

The device costs only $200 compared to the $700 Humane pin, which is partially due to open-source software coupled with less expensive hardware. The issue isn’t that the Rabbit is somehow scamming people with a fake phone, it’s more that it seems Rabbit should have waited before putting out its first product. Gizmodo has found the device has pretty terrible battery life, but just yesterday—less than a week after release—Rabbit put out an update it claims would increase the battery life several times over.

We at Gizmodo have had just 24 hours with it, and already we found that the device is so very, very limited in what it can do. It can answer basic questions and offer a bit more nuance on some queries than Siri. It also has basic vision capabilities that can answer some questions about your environment, but even those features seem rough. I turned it around selfie-style and asked the Rabbit to describe me. According to the Rabbit R1, I have a beard (correct, A+, no notes) but it also told me I was wearing a red shirt even though I was dressed in my standard drab black. It doesn’t have any GPS capability, but ask it for your current zip code and it will confidently tell you you’re miles from where you’re standing. I’d be very concerned about asking it for any important information like where the nearest hospital is.

Connecting to Spotify or other apps is an intense hassle that’s only made worse by the main controls on the device being your voice and a single button located on the side. Ask it to skip a song that’s playing, and Rabbit will ask you which song you want to skip. The answer should, obviously, be “the one I’m currently listening to.”

My colleague Dua Rashid will have her full thoughts on the Rabbit R1 this week, but after using it for a brief time, I can say that if it was an app, I wouldn’t even bother downloading it.

A version of this article originally appeared on Gizmodo.

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