LG is usually one of the big hitters of Mobile World Congress. In 2016, the company used this show to debut its radical LG G5 modular flagship. In 2017, we saw the LG G6, which was among the first phones with an almost bezel-free display. But in 2018, LG is giving us a rehash: the LG V30S ThinQ.
Yes, I agree, that name is awful.
The Android Oreo-powered V30S retains the exact same design as the V30, the same dual-camera system, the same 18:9 display, same 3,300mAh battery, and same Snapdragon 835 processor. The only upgrades are to memory, with the V30S stepping up from 4GB of RAM to 6GB, and from a choice between 64GB or 128GB of storage to a 128GB or 256GB selection. The colors on offer are called New Platinum Grey and New Moroccan Blue, in case they’re accidentally confused for being unchanged like the rest of the phone.
The immediate question that surfaces when you look at the V30S is, why did this need to exist? LG gave a media presentation here at MWC where it explained its thinking about AI integration into mobile devices and how that found expression in the company’s new AI Cam, the V30S’ headline novelty. But here’s the issue: the AI Cam and every other software improvement in the V30S are promised to be delivered as an update to V30 phones. So there’s no hardware reason for new hardware. Unless you were really lusting for a slightly darker gray on the back of your phone.
LG’s biggest launch at this year’s MWC is essentially a software update. As software patches go, though, it’s not too bad. The AI Cam facility is licensed by LG from EyeEm — a tool called EyeEm Vision, which other phone makers are free to license too — and I’m told its machine-learning system has been trained on 100 million images. It surfaces keywords related to things it recognizes as you point the camera at various objects or scenes, which is a really nice and immediate way to tell that the camera’s judging the scenes correctly. In a quick test, I found the AI Cam produced better, more accurate color than the unassisted LG camera, so it’s an encouraging start.
Another tweak LG’s made with the V30S camera is a new Bright Mode, which combines four pixels into one to produce brighter pictures in extreme low light. The trade-off there is you lose resolution for improved exposure. This is another change that’s also coming to the existing V30.
Finally, LG’s added a QLens image detection tool to the camera. QLens plugs into Amazon’s online store and is supposed to let you shop just by taking a photo of a thing you want. It’s woefully inaccurate. Taking a photo of the V30 led it to suggest that I buy an iPhone X. That’s the kind of self-own that immature AI will keep delivering for companies that insist on shipping stuff before it’s ready.
It’s abundantly evident that LG’s 2018 flagship wasn’t ready in time for the grand MWC event, but LG wasn’t willing to turn up to Barcelona empty-handed. What the company has done is rebrand, rather cynically, what remains its most recent (and best) phone. That’s not the worst thing in the world, but it’s a definite letdown for anyone looking to see one of the global leaders in consumer electronics living up to its vast potential.
The LG V30S ThinQ will be on sale first in Korea within a couple of weeks. After that, it will be made more widely available later in March, with pricing to be determined locally.