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LG's Galaxy Note 8 rival upgraded with more memory, AI

The smartphone is part of LG's new strategy of offering more frequent, minor upgrades to flagship devices.

LG V30S ThinQ

The LG V30S ThinQ is an incremental update to the company's flagship phone. 

Juan Garzon/CNET

LG is out with a new smartphone. Sort of.

Ahead of the Mobile World Congress 2018 trade show, the company on Saturday unveiled the V30S ThinQ, a version of last year's flagship V30 with slightly better specs and a focus on artificial intelligence. (Because who isn't talking about AI nowadays?)

The V30S represents LG's new strategy of quickly releasing minor upgrades to flagship phones, rather than releasing devices on an annual schedule. The company is doing this to better extend the life of its existing product line, though consumers may potentially be confused by the multiple variants of phones that pop up.

Now Playing: Watch this: LG V30S ThinQ brings improved specs and a focus on AI

The LG V30S is launching in a few weeks in South Korea, but the company wouldn't say where or when it would launch elsewhere. It didn't comment on pricing. 

There are no physical changes, aside from a new "Platinum Gray" color option. (It also comes in Moroccan Blue.) It rocks the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor as its predecessor and has the same 6-inch display. Likewise, its dual-lens camera, which features a 16 MP standard shooter and a 13-megapixel wide-angle lens, as well as a 5MP front-facing camera, remain unchanged.

"The differences between the regular V30 and the V30S are superficial," said CNET en Espanol editor Juan Garzon.

So what's different? The marquee change is the addition of some AI touches (hence the ThinQ name, which made its debut with smart appliances and TVs at CES 2018). 

There's AI CAM, in which your camera can recognize the object that's in front of it -- human, pet, food, etc. -- and adjust its settings accordingly. As you point your camera at a scene, different words like "person," "table" or "computer" will flash on the screen, showing that it recognizes the object. It doesn't always work -- after we pointed our preproduction review unit at CNET colleague Cezar Salza, the word "pet" flashed on the screen. 

To be clear, Salza is a human being. "Person" and "face" eventually flashed as well. 

The artificial intelligence is a good first attempt, but it doesn't quite live up to LG's claims -- yet, Garzon said.

LG is working with an image recognition startup called EyeEm to power the feature. The technology is open to other vendors, but LG said it tuned the system to work better with the V30S. 

There's also QLens, which can recognize an image like a wristwatch and find information like price and where to buy one, similar to Google Lens. You'll be able to control your LG Home Appliances or check for remaining time on your washing machine. All of this can be done with special commands for Google Assistant co-developed by LG and Google.

The camera also includes a Bright Mode, which brightens up the images in low-light settings. When things get dim, the camera will suggest you switch modes. The phone also gets a bump in some key specs: 6 gigabytes of RAM and either 128GB or 256GB of storage, up from 64GB and 128GB with the V30.

Lastly, there's QVoice, a Korean-language voice assistant designed for LG's home market. 

That the V30S is launching with the same Snapdragon 835 processor puts it at a disadvantage versus other upcoming flagship phones, which will likely use the faster next-generation Snapdragon 845. It's a similar issue that the LG G6 faced last year, when it came out with an older processor ahead of the Samsung Galaxy S8, which rocked the latest from Qualcomm.

LG hinted at an upcoming flagship that would address these concerns.

"We're not stopping here," said Ian Hwang, director of product portfolio for LG.

Until then, the V30S is the best that LG has to offer. Just don't confuse it with the V30.

First published Feb. 24, 2:39 p.m. PT
Correction, 4:20 p.m.:
The original version of this story misspelled the name of startup EyeEm. 

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