LG's V30S ThinQ Underwhelms with Half-Hearted Upgrades

Amidst new flagship handsets from Samsung and Sony, LG debuted hardware of its own at Mobile World Congress — though it’s not exactly what you’d expect. Instead of giving us the G7, as many industry watchers had anticipated, LG used the Barcelona buzz to push a refresh of its V30 called the (deep breath) V30S ThinQ.

Never before has a longer, more impenetrable name been given to a less ambitious product. The V30S ThinQ does carry a few key upgrades over the standard model, though probably not enough to convince existing V30 owners to pull the trigger.

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Those upgrades are pretty much two-fold: AI-powered cameras, and a boost in RAM and storage for a total of 2 GB and 128 GB, respectively. In the case of the cameras, the new capabilities leverage the work of EyeEm, a German photography-software startup that trained the new V30’s cameras on tens of millions of images so it could identify objects and scenes.

To those familiar with Huawei’s Mate 10 Pro, the V30S ThinQ works very similarly in practice. Just like Huawei’s flagship, the V30S ThinQ knows when it’s looking at food, flowers or a landscape, and it tunes exposure parameters in real time to best suit that subject.

It’s fast, too. The V30S ThinQ I tested quickly identified a plate of spaghetti, and then a miniature city. Unlike the Mate 10 Pro’s system, you can really tell that it’s working. The modifications are applied in real time over the viewfinder, and you can tap on the icon of the object identified to reveal choices of even more filters.

LG’s AI cameras extend beyond improving photos, too. Much like Bixby Vision or Google Lens, the V30S ThinQ’s camera can serve up shopping searches and Pinterest posts based on a particular product.

That all sounds good, and you might assume that LG gave the V30 extra memory precisely to enable these AI features. But the truth is, all the magic happens in software, and a representative told us it’s very possible the feature could arrive for the older V30 phone via a firmware update in the future.

That’s great news for early adopters who won’t feel burned by a very similar phone with a powerful new camera features six months after they bought the original V30. But it does hurt the new device’s appeal.

For those of us in the U.S., there’s another reason why the V30S ThinQ isn’t very special. LG already offers the V30+, a version of the V30 with 128 GB of storage, on our shores. Though it was initially offered only through Sprint, the V30+ is now sold both unlocked and on contract for T-Mobile subscribers.

In terms of the exterior, there are no differences between the V30 and V30S ThinQ, aside from two new colors — blue and a darker shade of gray. Like the original models, the new variant is still running Android 7.1.1 Nougat. LG says an upgrade to Android 8 Oreo is on the way, but it’s disconcerting to see that LG was still unable to come through with the latest version of the operating system even on a device that is ostensibly new.

LG hasn’t announced pricing and availability for the V30S ThinQ quite yet, though we know the phone will arrive in South Korea in the coming weeks and in the rest of the world beginning in March. The company says the handset's cost will be determined in cooperation with its carrier partners.

Photo Credit: Adam Ismail/Tom's Guide