A new blog has popped onto our radar: Android Niceties, a word-free collection of the best, most beautiful Android design.

Long held by the general public to be the underdog in the mobile design wars, the Android mobile platform takes a PR beating in the design and development community as well. The Niceties blog stands as proof that regardless of rhetoric to the contrary, gorgeous, design-competitive Android apps do exist, and they’re as breathtaking, sophisticated, and elegant as their Windows Phone and iOS cousins.

The blog’s mission is to act as a visual scrapbook that “provides inspiration and insight into Android UI conventions.” Android Niceties got its start last fall and currently features stunning examples of Android apps from companies large and small, known and less known.

The launch of Android 4.0, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich, last year brought some technological unification to the Android platform, and it also got a ground-up overhaul in the design department.

In a deep-dive interview with Android design chief Matias Duarte, VentureBeat learned more on how Google transformed Android from “the ugly cousin” into a mobile beauty pageant contender. The Android design team even build a housemade typeface, Roboto to go along with the new design language.

“The way things look and make people feel are just as important as the speed and features,” said Duarte last fall.

And that didn’t just apply to the OS; Android applications stepped up their game as well. In another long chat with Googlers Chris Yerga and Billy Rutledge, we talked about how the design upgrade, which persisted with Android 4.1, aka Jelly Bean, had inspired app developers to bring sexier, more expensive-looking, sharply designed apps to Google Play. “That’s all developers. The games and apps have gotten so much better,” said Yerga.

Here are a few favorites from Android Niceties, along with Google Play download links:

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