Install R in Android, via GNURoot -no root required!

Playing with my tablet some time ago, I wondered if installing R could be possible. You know, a small android device “to the power of R”…

After searching on Google from time to time, I came across some interesting possibilities:

  • R Instructor, created “to bridge the gap between authoritative (but expensive) reference textbooks and free but often technical and difficult to understand help files“.
  • R Console Free. provides the necessary C, C++ and Fortran compilers to build and install R packages.
  • There’s always possible to root your device and install a Linux distribution for Android, which will let you install any repository/package, just like in any linux console.
  • Running R from your dedicated R server or from an external one (see R-fiddle), using your own browser. I see this option as particularly useful for those who want maximum performance.
  • Some additional thoughts on this topic are also stored in these Stack Overflow pages.
  • Without needing to root my device, I found GNURoot, an app that “provides a method for you to install and use GNU/Linux distributions and their associated applications/packages alongside Android“.

Finally, my preferred solution came with GNURoot (see this tutorial), and here’s how I managed to install the newest CRAN repositories! (NOTE: It should work “out of the box” but, as problems might appear, some experience with Linux is always advisable).

1. Install the .apk of GNURoot in your Android device. Don’t forget to donate if you like it! 🙂

2. Following the app instructions, download and install a linux distribution to run. In my case, I chose the .apk GNURoot Wheezy (a Debian Wheezy distro without Xterms). EDIT: Just be sure of having enough memory for it in your device

3. Once installed, just follow the steps to launch the Rootfs (Wheezy) as Fake Root. You will see a bash prompt, from which you can access a complete linux directory tree. This is the same as if you were in a computer (however, if you aren’t root you won’t be able to access the directories via your file browser from Android)


4. Now, we just have to update and upgrade:

apt-get update
apt-get upgrade

5. Then, update the sources.list file. We don’t have any graphical text editor (like gedit or kate)… but we have nano!:

nano /etc/apt/sources.list


Using the volume up + “W/S/A/D” you can move between the lines. Or alternatively, you can install a convenient keyboard with arrow buttons, like Hacker’s Keyboard! (thanks to JTT!)

Following instructions from CRAN, I added the following line to sources.list:

deb http://<favorite-cran-mirror>/bin/linux/debian wheezy-cran3/

Exit saving changes. But before “update and upgrade” again, don’t forget to add the key for the repository running the following:

apt-key adv --keyserver --recv-key 381BA480

5. Update and upgrade…. voilà!

apt-get update
apt-get upgrade
apt-get install r-base r-base-dev

6. Now, you only have to run R just like in any bash console:



With this method you only have a prompt, without any graphical interface. ¿How do I make and see plots here?. If R runs from “inside” Android one option is to connect your Linux to an X-server app (thanks, J. Liebig). However, due to memory issues, I couldn’t put in practice this idea and see what happens. Try at your own risk! 🙂

Fortunately, there’s always possible to print R graphs in various formats, with the inconvenient that you have to browse to the plot’s location in Android -every time you need to check the output.


Here I leave a small script to begin playing with R on Android. Hope you enjoy it!


…about R, for beginners

These days I was remembering my beginnings as a linux user few years ago, and how I found R (possibly in a very unlikely way: searching for a SPSS alternative in Linux). For two years, R had been almost impossible for me. I didn’t understand its syntax (I don’t have programming background), and luckily I had installed R Commander (Rcmdr) to perform simple analysis and plots…

Another feature of Rcmdr (that I didn’t use) was that every click to a button remains in a part of Rcmdr’s console, and then it can be copied, used and modified. Indeed, the ‘copypaste‘ thing has revealed to me as the best way to acquire, recyle, modify and run commands.

Have you installed R? You can try this (nice) code:

# First we store an object called ‘object’ in R’s memory (just like a big calculator)

object <- seq(1,100,  by=5)

# ‘Object’ stores the sequence (seq) from 1 to 100, by 5. That is: 1,  6, 11, 16, 21 26, 31… If you type ?seq in the console, you will have a brief help.

# With R, you can calculate big numbers, logarythms and fractions storing its components, with less chance of errors than with an ordinary calculator.

# You can create new variables from old ones:

logobject <- log10(object)

# ‘Logobject’ stores the decimal logarythm of every value inside ‘object’. That is:


# You can also plot the variables with simple functions like plot:


plot(object, logobject)

plot(object, logobject, col = "red", xlab="My X axis", ylab= "This is my Y axis", main="My first plot")

# As you can see, is not very difficult to change the color “argument”, from “red” to “green” or “blue” for instance. The title, instance of “My first R plot” can be changed to “My coloured R plot”, or the labels of the axes. Don’t forget to store these commands and new ones, in a plain Text document, Wordpad etc.. so you can recycle them and fix syntax errors!

# If you feel confident, you can try this. The spoiler is here, by DWin

dat <- data.frame(t=seq(0, 2*pi, by=0.1) )

xhrt <- function(t) 16*sin(t)^3

yhrt <- function(t) 13*cos(t)-5*cos(2*t)-2*cos(3*t)-cos(4*t)

dat$y = yhrt(dat$t)

dat$x = xhrt(dat$t)

with(dat, plot(x,y, type="l"))

with(dat, polygon(x,y, col="hotpink"))