Google’s yearly picks for the 2018 Google Play Awards are here, the company plows through around 3.5 million apps every year to find the right digital masterpieces for you to enjoy.
The Google Play Awards mostly highlight innovation, creativity, user-friendliness, and above all, community service from nine different categories.
These apps and games battled it out across nine categories, and proved not only to deliver delightful experiences to fans, but also have larger positive impact in their communities.
Standout Well-Being App: Simple Habit
This category picks up apps that empower people “to live the best version of their lives.” Simple Habit is a meditation app for people who work in busy, stressing environments and need something to calm their nerves.
It’s also good for people who suffer anxiety or panic attacks, the app lets users set up a meditation routine and also manage their sleep timing for improved mental health.
For free, Simple Habit lets you explore around 50 meditation sessions arranged in one place by more than 60 teachers. Of course, you can get access to a library of 1000+ sessions by paying a premium.
Best Accessibility Experience: Be My Eyes
“Apps or games enabling device interaction that serves people with disabilities or special needs.”
Be My Eyes lets visually impaired people video call a random, sighted volunteer over the internet to help complete their task.
Whenever a blind person initiates a request, he/she can use their smartphone’s rear camera to point at the object they need help to see such as food items, clothing, expiry dates on cartons, etc.
You can become a volunteer too, just download the app and you will become part of the network. Even if you can’t answer a call at a moment, Be My Eyes will forward the call to another volunteer who can then help the blind person.
Best Social Impact: Khan Academy
This category includes apps that focus on things like education, health, disaster awareness, or positive fundraising. In short, these apps make a substantial impact in people’s lives by providing educational services.
Khan Academy lets you learn almost anything and provides you free videos containing explanations for various subjects.
Learn using videos, interactive exercises, and in-depth articles in math (arithmetic, pre-algebra, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, statistics, calculus, linear algebra), science (biology, chemistry, physics), economics, and even the humanities with playlists on art history, civics, finance, and more.
It’s a great tool for students as it covers topics from mathematics, economics, science, history, and much more. Not just that, it also includes practice exercises, with hints and feedback, to let users fortify their core concepts.
Standout Indie: Old Man’s Journey
“Games from indie developers that focus on artistic design, gameplay mechanics, and overall polish.”
Indie, or independent, games are produced by developers who do not belong to a major game-developing company, rather usually consist of a few members who create their own artistic concept. Indie games usually look inferior to AAA ones developed by top-tier organizations, but some catch the spotlight with their artistic design and catchy story.
Old Man’s Journey is a story about an old man’s “heartache, regret, and hope.” It is a visual narrative with a serene backing soundtrack and playful puzzles. It is a paid game and goes for Rs. 520 in Pakistan.
Best Community Building Game: Episode
“Games built to connect gamers, encouraging social interaction and community building.”
Episode is an interactive story game which lets users insert themselves in different stories and also become storytellers. The company behind the game, Episode Interactive partners with real life influencers to make Hollywood titles available within the game.
Episode lets you LIVE your stories. One choice YOU make can change everything! The world’s largest home of visual stories where YOU choose your path. Or, become a creator and write your own!
Episode knocked out Pokemon Go, PUBG Mobile, Lineage 2: Revolution, and Clash Royale – the early nominees – by winning the Best Community Build Game award.
Best AR or VR Experience: BBC Earth: Life in VR
As the name suggests, this category highlights apps that make optimal use of ARCore or Daydream UI to provide an immersive experience to the audience. BBC Earth: Life in VR lets you dive down into the natural world and lets you get a closer look on the Earth’s vast biodiversity.
Meet one of the furriest animals on the planet, experience life at microscopic scale and dive into the Deep Ocean with giants. Witness first hand the creature behaviors and relationships which sustains this ocean’s rich and diverse ecosystems, and discover the secrets that underpin it.
Surely, you will need a good, comfy VR headset to use this app, it is among the few VR apps that promise a smooth viewing experience with a user-friendly design. These are the main attributes that qualify an app to get attention from Google.
Standout Build for Billions Experience: Flipkart
“Apps or games with optimized performance, localization and culturalization for emerging markets.”
Flipkart.com is an online retailer which got popular fast and dominates the Indian e-commerce market. It competes directly with Amazon’s Indian subsidiary. The Bengaluru-based company now supplies a wide range of products including mobile phones, fashion wear, electronic devices, accessories and consumer durables.
India is an emerging market, Flipkart is the 9th-most visited website (according to Alexa) in the country and its Android app has a diverse user base. Do note that it’s only available for Indian users.
Standout Startup: Canva
“Apps from new developers that offer a unique experience while achieving strong organic install growth.”
Canva lets you edit your photos and create catchy art designs for any purpose without having an art degree or proficiency in complex software. You can create almost anything, invitation cards, social media posts, post banners, or image titles directly from your Android phone, or PC, on the go.
The app does most of your work for you, it uses a smooth drag-drop mechanism and efficient tools to make designing fun, easy, and quick. Moreover, it also hands over 60,000+ templates drawn by art professionals which you can use in your pictures easily.
Best Breakthrough Hit: Empires & Puzzles
“New apps or games with excellent overall design, user experience, engagement and retention, and strong organic install growth.”
Empires & Puzzles is a role-playing game in which players create their own fortresses and armies to battle their opponents in an open fantasy world. Moreover, it also has PVP battles but the game relies heavily on in-game purchases and microtransactions.
Just like most RPGs, users level up their characters based on experience (or money spent on microtransactions) to fight against difficult enemies spread throughout the world. Players can also team up to fight against hordes of enemies. The game is not available in Pakistan.