As part of the Google I/O festivities, Google held a ceremony to announce the winners of the 2nd annual Google Play Awards.
With over 85 billion downloads from the Google Play Store, it's always nice to see Google give some praise to the most innovative and interesting apps of the past year. Google has highlighted 12 apps this year, each chosen for its outstanding user experience or social impact.
Standout Indie: Mushroom 11
Mushroom 11 is a super interesting puzzle game in which you take control of a shapeshifting fungus as you make your way across an apocalyptic wasteland.
This game features challenging puzzles and fantastically fluid controls. Definitely worth checking out!
Standout Startup: HOOKED
HOOKED is a storytelling app that tells its story one text at a time. This app lives up to its name by drawing you into its library of mysterious stories, presented as a series of chat logs.
New stories are added daily, and there's even an option to upload your own stories for others to read. It's strangely addictive despite its occasionally cheesy storylines.
Best Android Wear Experience: Runtastic Running & Fitness
It probably comes as little surprise that a fitness app would win the the award for Best Android Wear Experience.
Runtastic is one of the best fitness tracker apps you can use and is especially worth checking out if you've got a new Android Wear 2.0 watch or are planning to pick one up to revamp your summer fitness routine.
Best TV Experience: Red Bull TV
From the best in extreme sports to music festivals, Red Bull delivers endless entertainment — enough so that you may forget they also sell energy drinks!
Red Bull TV wins the award for its TV Experience, which will be worth keeping in mind the next time they have some guy free-fall from space.
Best VR Experience: Virtual Virtual Reality
We imagine that this category is going to be getting very competitive over the next few years. This year's winner is Virtual Virtual Reality, which is built around a really fun concept of strapping on different VR headsets within a VR setting — similar to the dream within a dream scenario from Inception.
This Daydream VR app is currently on sale for half off, so there's no better time to check it out!
Best AR Experience: WOORLD
We should be seeing more Tango-enabled phones to take advantage of Augmented Reality. When you finally get your hands on one, check out WOORLD.
It's a great showcase for the quirky side of AR, and is intuitive enough for anyone to pick up and play.
Best Apps for Kids: Animal Jam - Play Wild!
For those looking for more kid-friendly apps to keep the young ones occupied in the back seat, Google gives the nod to Animal Jam.
Set in a fun and cartoony 3D world, your kid will learn about animals and their real-life habitats while playing fun games. There's also a social aspect for chatting in-game, with the developers committed to providing a safe online playground for kids.
Best Multiplayer Game: Hearthstone
Hearthstone is still going strong three years on from its launch on Android. Developed by Blizzard, it's a social card game based in the same universe as World of Warcraft.
If you're brand new and interested in checking it out, there's great tutorial and single player modes to help teach you the basics and learn strategies before you move on to facing online opponents. Keep in mind that if you want to get serious here, you're going to need to buy some in-game expansion packs.
Best App: Memrise
The big prize of Best App went to Memrise, an intuitive app to assist you in learning a new language. Over 15 million people are using Memrise to learn a new language by playing games, watching videos from native speakers to offer social contexts, with more resources to help you along. It's free to try out, so what do you have to lose?
Also, check out the developer's "What's New" update for its reaction to winning the award for Best App. It's pretty swell!
Best Game: Transformers: Forged to Fight
Join Optimus Prime, Megatron, Bumblebee, Waspinator, Rhinox, Grimlock, Soundwave and many more of your favorite bots in Transformers: Forged to Fight. Personally, I'm kind of surprised to see this game pick up the top spot — It certainly wouldn't top my list.
Then again, who doesn't love a good ol' fashioned robot fight?
Best Accessibility Experience: IFTTT
If you've been looking into connecting all of your smart devices around your home into a fully automated system, you've probably already looked into IFTTT. Using custom Applets, IFTTT lets you connect hundreds of apps and devices in seemingly endless orientations — and of course there's support for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, so you can control everything with your voice.
Definitely an app you'll want to have on your phone in the years to come.
Best Social Impact: ShareTheMeal
ShareTheMeal is a charity developed by the UN World Food Programme that lets you feed a child with a simple tap on your phone. It only takes about $.50 a day to feed a child for a day. There are 20 times as many smartphone users as there are hungry children. You do the math.
With several ongoing famines around the world, we should all do our small part to make a difference. Apps like this are a great showcase of how technology can be used to make a positive impact.
Get the most out of your Android gaming experience
SteelSeries Stratus Duo ($60 at Amazon)
A great Bluetooth controller for use with Android games that offer gamepad support that also includes a wireless USB dongle for gaming on PCs. Highly recommended!
Ventev Powercell 6010+ Portable USB-C Charger ($37 at Amazon)
This battery pack from Ventev is recommended so often because it's so compact and convenient. You get a built-in USB-C cord, built-in AC prong for charging the unit, and 6000mAh battery capacity.
Spigen Style Ring ($13 at Amazon)
Of all the phone mounts and kickstands we've tested, the most consistently reliable and sturdy is the original Spigen Style Ring. It also has a minimalist hook mount for your car's dashboard.
We may earn a commission for purchases using our links. Learn more.