Google announces winners of its 2nd annual Material Design Contest

best browsers for Android
If millions of lines of code are the buttresses of Google’s Android operating system, Material Design is the architectural flourishes that dot its outer walls. The aesthetic philosophy was introduced at Google’s I/O developer conference in 2014, and characterized by its use of responsive animations and transitions, grid-based layouts, and depth effects such as shadows and lighting.

It’s slowly grown to subsume Google’s other products — Gmail, YouTube, Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Maps, Inbox, and more have all received material design makeovers in recent years — and in 2015, the Mountain View, California-based company began hosing a contest to highlight the best of Material Designs mobile expressions. The second annual Material Design Competition commenced earlier this year, and on Wednesday, Google announced the winners.

The competition this year wasn’t any less fierce this time around, but clear victors emerged in the competitions categories of Brand Infusion, Charming Engagement, Creative Navigation, Expressive Layouts, and Focused Efficiency.

snap1

Taking the cake in the Brand Infusion category was organizational app Asana, which Google credited with maintaining “visual focus” and ensuring “users [stayed] concentrated” on accomplishing tasks and goals. “[Asana’s] … short, frequently repeated interactions … make efficiency feel rewarding,” Google wrote. “Content is never overwhelmed by the wide range of available actions because they are organized intelligently and are easy to trigger.”

snap2

The digital trophy for Charming Engagement went to Fabulous, a self-described “happiness trainer” that encourages healthy decision-making with positive feedback loops. The app makes a “charming” first impression, said Google, and thoughtful touches like “crisp state transitions” and “goal completion animations” keep at its core mission: motivating. “Bold notification styles, a well-developed soundscape, and email reminders that feel personal and direct … are carefully considered,” said Google.

snap3

Google crowned C Channel, an app for the eponymous Japanese and Thai video sharing platform, the winner in the Creative Navigation category, crediting its “positive vibe” and “gestures” as the touches that put it over the top. “[More] content usually means more problems,” Google wrote, “[but] the app neatly balances a blend of studio-created and user-submitted videos covering fashion, food, and more.”

snap4

In the Expressive Layouts segment, Kitchen Stories earned the adoration of Google’s design team with an “effective,” “easy-to-scan” layout for recipes that adapts neatly to screens and devices of varying sizes. Content is organized not only “neatly,” Google said, and smartly: the recipe interface minimizes the number of taps and swipes required to progress, ideal for “messy fingers.”

snap5

And in the all-important Focused Efficiency round, Airbnb came away victorious. Google said the reason came down mostly to efficiency that didn’t sacrifice “precision” in design. “Essential tasks are satisfied … routing users clearly and briskly from sign in, to browsing, to booking a reservation,” Google said. “By neatly segmenting larger goals into smaller steps, Airbnb is able to sidestep the appearance of complexity, making the overall experience feel comfortable.”

The five winning apps will be featured at the SPAN LA design conference on October 27, Google said.

The Material Design Competition follows on the heels of Google-hosted apps contest: the Indie Games Festival. That contest, which wrapped up in September, saw three game developers awarded tickets to Google’s I/O 2017 developer conference, a Tango Development kit, and a Razer Forge TV bundle.

Product Review

Screen snags aside, the Galaxy Fold is an exciting step toward a foldable future

Samsung's Galaxy Fold is the company's first foldable phone, with two screens, six cameras, and a dual-cell battery. The phone may be delayed due to display issues, but that doesn't stop us from asking -- what's it like to use?
Home Theater

Bowers & Wilkins’ Formation Suite is a stylish, high-end Sonos competitor

With high-end audio specs, and gorgeous designs, B&W's Formation Suite is the company's first foray into wireless home audio. Starting at $700, B&W hopes to outclass Sonos, by offering high-res audio and "perfect" synchronization.
Product Review

The Xperia 10 Plus feels great in your hand, but you'll still want to put it down

There has never been a better time to buy a smartphone with an unusual design, and one of the cheaper models out there vying for your attention is the Sony Xperia 10 Plus, with its 21:9 aspect ratio screen.
Smart Home

Amazon and Best Buy smash prices on August smart home security locks

Amazon and Best Buy have the lowest prices for two August smart home door locks during a limited time sale. August was one of the first smart door lock companies designed specifically for smart home convenience and security.
Mobile

Bigger isn’t always better: 5 of the smallest smartphones worth buying

Phones are getting larger and larger, but what options exist for the small-of-hand, or people who just want a phone they can use one-handed? In a world of phablets, some of the smallest smartphones can still pack a punch.
Mobile

Waze vs. Google Maps: Which map app should you be using?

Waze and Google Maps are two of the most popular apps for those looking for turn-by-turn navigation, yet there are some notable differences to point out. Here, we examine both to decide which offers the best feature set.
Wearables

Before buying a Fitbit, check out these Garmin fitness trackers under $100

The Apple Watch is a great fitness tracker, but it's not cheap. Thankfully, there are plenty of fitness trackers under $100, and they offer many of the same features. Here are the best fitness trackers under $100.
Health & Fitness

Google’s redesigned Fit activity tracker is now an iOS app

Google Fit has landed for iOS. The activity tracker offers the same clean design that arrived with the major revamp of the Android version a year ago, with features such as Move Minutes and Heart Points also included.
Mobile

Stunning photo shows Honor 20 will get the full Moschino designer treatment

Honor will launch the Honor 20 on May 21, at an event taking place in London. A special Moschino version will also be revealed, potentially with a Lite version, and perhaps even another model also showing up on the day.
Mobile

Leak says Huawei will supply 5G equipment to the U.K., but with a caveat

A leak from the U.K.'s National Security Council says Huawei has been approved to supply certain 5G infrastructure equipment, but not the core components related to secure aspects of the network.
Mobile

Smash your carrier shackles with the best unlocked phones

If you want the freedom to switch carriers at will or you prefer to get your phone directly from the company that makes it, you'll want to buy an unlocked smartphone. These are the best unlocked phones you can buy in the U.S.
Mobile

Google Assistant for Android and iOS wants to tell you a story

Just in time for National Tell a Story Day on April 27, Google has added the ability for Google Assistant for iOS and Android to read you a story. So now there's no excuse for not catching up with a good book.
Android

Here's how much it will cost to buy the Galaxy S10 5G, and when it releases

Samsung announced a whopping four new Galaxy S10 devices, from the low-cost S10e to the triple-camera S10 and S10 Plus. But it's the Galaxy S10 5G that steals the show, as it will be the first 5G-ready smartphone to hit the market.
Mobile

Verizon reveals 20 new cities that will get its 5G network in 2019

Verizon is in the midst of a massive 5G rollout. In addition to fixed 5G service, it has also begun deploying mobile 5G. Here's everything you need to know about Verizon's 5G network, including when it will be in your town.