How thin is too thin? Well, the Chinese smartphone makers are always pushing their limits on this end. Following Gionee's 5.1mm Elife S5.1 and Oppo's 4.85mm R5, today Vivo has set a new record with its X5Max, a 4.75mm-thick Android phone that still manages to pack a number of notable features. The slim aluminum mid-frame houses a vibrant 5.5-inch 1080p Super AMOLED screen, a 1.7mm-thick logic board and a 5-megapixel f/2.4 front camera. Flip to the back and you'll find a 13-megapixel f/2.0 main camera -- the inevitable bulge that goes beyond the phone's official thickness by almost 2mm -- and a loudspeaker towards the bottom. On the whole, the phone feels surprisingly light (Vivo has yet to list the official weight) but also solid and well-made.

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State Capitol Buillding, Des Moines, Iowa, built between 1871 and 1886 features a gold-leaf dome and corinthian columns

Iowa, state of corn fields, soybeans and Slipknot, is working on a huge high-tech project: a driver's license app residents can install on their smartphones. While convenient, it does come with a number of risks, so the state's Department of Transportation will give it features to confirm each license's authenticity and protect its owner's privacy. Hawkeye state's DOT Director Paul Trombino says the app will be protected by a pin number, and a second layer of protection such as facial or fingerprint recognition could be added in the future. Cops, alcohol vendors and the not-so-friendly club bouncers, on the other hand, can check if a license is authentic if its picture rotates to show the owner's profiles.

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T-Mobile chief John Legere

With the exception of Sprint, the big four US carriers tend to cap your data on family plans. T-Mobile's current offering only gives one person unfettered internet access, and even Sprint's $100 per month promo asks you to split a finite amount of data with your kin -- not so hot if Junior likes to marathon YouTube shows. Things are looking up, though. T-Mobile is launching a new (if "limited time") Simple Choice family plan on December 10th that gives everyone unlimited data. The base plan starts at $100 per month for two lines that also include unlimited voice and text, plus 5GB of data tethering per line. That's only half as many included lines as Sprint, but it's a better value if you're willing to pay extra to avoid limits. It beats the stuffing out of what you'll get at AT&T and Verizon, at least. The two carriers respectively start at $130 and $100 for 10GB of data on two lines, and you'll have to pay both for more capacity and more lines.

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Technology can solve the greatest problems facing humanity. But it can also reveal man's weakness for gaudy and useless icons of luxury. Enter the 88 Tauri, the latest smartphone for rich folks from Tonino Lamborghini (founded by the son of the famous Ferrucio Lamborghini, but with no relation to the car company). For $6,000 you get an Android phone that's all leather and steel, toting a 5-inch screen and a quad-core Qualcomm 801 processor. Its hardware wouldn't be out of place in devices released earlier this year, but it's still a step up from what other ridiculous luxury entries offer, like the Porsche-designed BlackBerry P'9883 or Vertu's inexplicably successful lineup. Only 1,947 units will be made, which adds yet another tempting layer of exclusivity. Expect it to be on every rich old dude's wish list when it goes on sale later this month.

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Ingress

Google's augmented reality exploration game, Ingress, has had a pretty eventful 2014, including an iOS release back in July and the addition of user-created missions a few months later. Now, developer Niantic Labs is closing out the year by getting in the holiday spirit. In a recent blog post, the Ingress team announced its #MissionsForGood campaign, aiming to entice players on both sides of the augmented reality conflict to give back to their respective communities during the holidays. Using the recently added user-created missions feature, verified agents (level 8 and higher) can designate portals at or near local charities and add the #MissionsForGood hashtag in mission titles. The team also added a unique medal for the campaign.

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If you're in India, get ready to be more confused and maybe a bit angry about the OnePlus One situation. Cyanogen recently said that "the OnePlus One will get OTA firmware updates for all global devices, including global devices for our users in India." That was seemingly a denial to OnePlus' claim that it wouldn't get OTA updates there due to Cyanogen's deal with India's MicroMax. However, it turns out that Cyanogen's statement had weasel-wording that only a lawyer could love. It clarified today that OnePlus One smartphones sold in India indeed won't get the update -- only "global devices" purchased abroad. That appears to be the final word: once the Android Lollipop-based ROM is released for the One, no more OTA updates for India buyers until OnePlus builds its own ROM.

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Stock password photos are fun

Hate typing passwords? You might not have to enter them for much longer. The FIDO Alliance (backed by Google, Microsoft, PayPal and Samsung, among others) has just published the completed versions of its password-free standards for both regular and two-factor authentication. Apps and websites using the technology can now rely on a number of easier and typically more secure ways to sign you in, such as fingerprint readers and USB dongles, without having to worry about the exact device you're using. There are already some hardware and software solutions that play nicely with FIDO, but the existence of firm specs should significantly boost your choices in 2015.

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Taxi drivers protest Uber in Spain, (AP Photo/Paul White)

Uber can't keep itself out of the news lately. The San Francisco-based company best known for creating a mobile app that connects taxi/livery services with smartphone users is now banned from operation in Spain. The injunction is a result of a complaint from the Madrid Taxi Association, and it forces Uber to cease operations in the country immediately; a statement from the Madrid court announcing the injunction points out that Uber didn't even get to defend itself, and cites Uber's business license being from Delaware (a tax haven where many companies file, despite not being based there) as the reason.

If all this sounds a bit like a kangaroo court, that's because it likely is: entrenched taxi and livery companies have been working against Uber and other ridesharing services in a variety of cities all over the world. Uber is of course far from perfect -- this is a company that was recently caught plotting against journalists, headed by a CEO that's been heavily criticized for misogyny -- but it wasn't even present to defend itself in the Spanish court hearing that ended its ability to function in Spain. Expect Uber to push back in the coming weeks; the company didn't respond to request for comment as of publishing.

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Amazon is finally bringing Kindle's X-ray feature to Android devices, three years after it launched and two years after it became available on iPhones and iPads. X-ray, for those who haven't had the chance to use it yet, provides some sort of an encyclopedia-and-dictionary-in-one for each book you read. It displays a list of characters and the parts of the book they appear in, particular terms and their meaning, as well as significant phrases appearing throughout the text. It works for both novels and texbooks, so long as you click the X-ray button somewhere on the app's top bar. Considering the update introduces other useful features, including push notifications and the ability to make flashcard sets, the app has now become a better tool for both schoolwork and leisure reading.

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BlackPhone Dialer

Earlier this year, with the Snowden leaks still fresh in the public consciousness, a privacy-focused smartphone called the Blackphone wanted to put people back in control of their data. Running PrivatOS, a custom fork of Android 4.4.2 KitKat, the device aims to strip away bloat and make calls, messaging, contact storage, calendars and internet browsing as secure as they could possibly be. However, its secure core also came with one big disadvantage; if users want to keep their communications private, they could only use default apps supplied on the device. That's about to change, though, after the company announced it's going to launch the "world's first privacy-focused app store".

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VLC for Android

VideoLAN's multi-talented VLC media player has taken a while to reach Android in finished form -- long enough that the developers revived the iOS app in the meantime. At last, though, it appears to be ready for prime time. The team has updated VLC for Android (you may see the old version listed for a short while) to drop the beta tag, making it officially complete. That's not entirely true in practice, mind you. The version notes still talk about previous fixes for Android 5.0 Lollipop and devices using newer ARMv8 processors, and Chromecast streaming support (unveiled in June) still isn't here. This is more of a formality than a major update, then, but it's still an important milestone for one of the better-known audiovisual apps.

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Searching for friends' Facebook posts on an iPhone

Facebook has taken quite a few steps to help you find people and certain posts, but actually sifting through your friends' post history has been tricky. How are you supposed to find the photos from that epic party last summer? It may not be as much of a challenge now that Facebook has updated its Graph Search beta to help you track down your friends' shared posts. If you search for "Anna summer party," for example, you'll see everything Anna wrote about that memorable get-together. The smarter search is available this week for iPhone and web users in English. Unfortunately, there's no mention of other platforms and languages so far.

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We're still waiting for the Rezence standard to bring wireless charging to laptops, but Freescale is taking a big step towards making that a reality. It just announced a new wireless product that's powerful enough to recharge tablets, portable medical devices, and other large gadgets. The 15-watt system, which should hit the market early next year, offers three times as much electrical power as Freescale's phone charging solution. It also plays nicely with other standards like the Wireless Power Consortium's Qi technology, VentureBeat reports. (Unfortunately, existing 5-watt devices won't get any upgrade from the 15-watt setup, FreeScale tells us.) If you've ever used a USB battery pack to recharge your gadgets, you've probably noticed that tablets typically need to be plugged into higher wattage USB ports to get juiced up. The same basic idea applies here. Increased power could also mean that tossing your phone on a wireless charger before you run out the door could actually be useful. After all, when charging your phone over a USB cable is three times faster, the minor convenience of wireless is a lot less compelling.

[Photo: A Lumia phone on a Nokia wireless charging pad.]

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Samsung's virtual reality headset, dubbed "Gear VR," is available for purchase as of today. For those not following the last three years of virtual reality's return from obscurity, today is a big day: Gear VR is the first virtual reality headset available to general consumers. Though Sony's PlayStation arm and Facebook's Oculus VR have high-powered development kits in the wild, Samsung's the first major electronics company to go to market with a VR headset. Almost, at least -- the headset's full name is, "Gear VR Innovator Edition." In fact, when you buy the headset on Samsung's website, you have to agree to this condition: "I understand the Gear VR is an Innovator Edition device targeted specifically to developers or early adopters of technology."

So, what's the goal with Gear VR for Samsung? And what are its plans for the future? We asked Nick DiCarlo, VP/GM of immersive products and VR at Samsung, in an interview this morning. Head below for his answers, and for the full list of apps coming to Gear VR today.

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Consumer virtual reality is kind of, sort of, almost a reality. It's basically a reality today, actually, as Samsung's virtual reality headset -- "Gear VR" -- is available for purchase online. As previously reported, the headset will set you back $200 and it requires a Note 4 smartphone to act as its screen. The device is dubbed "Innovator Edition" by Samsung, and the Korean phone giant clearly isn't joking around with that phrase: the product order page requires you to acknowledge that you're buying a, "device targeted specifically to developers or early adopters of technology." So, how is it, and should you buy it? When we last used it at IFA 2014, we were impressed (check out our hands-on below the break). Whether you should buy it, however? We can't tell you just yet -- expect a full review of Samsung's Gear VR from Engadget just as soon as we get our hands (heads?) on one. If you just can't wait for the review, here's where you can buy Gear VR right now.

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