Of all the electronic cigarettes available, vape pods have been gaining in popularity for some time now. Compact, light and easy to use, there is plenty of evidence in their favour. We’ll explain how these new e-cigarettes work, with this new guide to vaping.
What exactly is a vape pod?
Vape pods are very easy-to-use e-cigarettes, and they all use disposable tanks. With clearomizers, you only change the resistance coil when it’s worn out. With vape pods, the coil is built into the tank, so you change everything at the same time. This is more practical and cleaner, but there are also some drawbacks: it is less versatile and more expensive to use. We’ll explain some key things to consider so you can decide if it’s the right system for you, and help you choose the best model for your transition to e-cigarettes. All pods are made of two parts: a battery, and a tank that fits inside it.
The battery is the non-disposable part of the pod. As in all e-cigarettes, its main purpose is to store the energy to power the device and to ensure it works properly.
An integrated battery
All pods work with a built-in battery that is sealed inside. Most mods use removable batteries that can be replaced as easily as the batteries on a remote control. In contrast, users can’t access a pod battery, which can only be recharged via a micro USB cable like the ones used for mobile phones. As you might guess, battery life is therefore a major factor in your choice.
Running out of battery or liquid might lead you to give up on switching to e-cigarettes, at least temporarily. That’s why it is essential that your pod can last long enough to use it all day long, or at least between two charges. You’ll only get enough power for occasional use during the day from 350 mAh batteries, while 650 mAh batteries are better suited to regular use. For heavy use, you’ll need 900 mAh or more powerful batteries. The battery charge status is always displayed, usually by an LED that shows the remaining charge by its colour or by flashing.
Just one button
Pods are always very simple to operate, and even the most complicated involve pressing just one button. You usually click 5 times in quick succession to turn a pod on or off, and hold down the button to vape. Congratulations, you just got your Pod PhD! This ease of use is definitely a plus for pods. They are much more intuitive than boxes with multiple settings and displays – those will have you poring over the user manual before you even start.
Inhale to activate the pod
There are even pods with no button. Vapour is produced automatically when you inhale. The battery has a small sensor that detects the change in air pressure when you start to inhale, and heats the resistance coil until you stop inhaling. It’s even easier and more intuitive than activating the pod manually, but how user friendly it is depends on the quality of the product. Some take a bit too long to start making vapour, so you are only inhaling air at the start of the puff. That takes away a lot of the satisfaction you get from it. Faster-acting models that start making vapour as soon as you inhale are far more preferable.
Cartridges, or refills, are a typical feature of pods. They consist of a resistance coil, cotton wick and tank in a single unit that you replace completely when it’s empty. They are really easy to use. You just pull the cartridge out of the battery unit and insert a new one. You might also keep several cartridges with you to change to a different flavour or nicotine level, depending on how you feel. For example, you might use a nicotine-light coffee liquid for when you wake up, a medium fruity one for during the day, or even a mojito liquid with more nicotine for a Saturday night out. It only takes 3 seconds to change a cartridge, so you might as well make the most of it! Most hold 2ml of liquid, which is the maximum amount allowed by the European TPD Directive. There are also two very different types of refills: closed and refillable.
Closed cartridges are sold with their liquid content. When they run out, you replace them. These are the easiest type to use as you don’t even have to handle the e-liquid. On the other hand, they are more expensive than refillable cartridges. They can be vastly more expensive, such as the Blu, or more affordable, like the AXS or iQos Mesh. You’ll be buying a lot of these, maybe every day, so don’t underestimate the cost. You should also be aware that the choice of liquid, whether for flavour or nicotine level, will be restricted to the ones available for that model. The pay-off for a smaller range of e-liquids is ease of use. Your options are bound to be limited, so choose a selection of liquids when you buy a pod model. With refillable cartridges, that problem goes away.
These are sold empty, so users add the liquids they want. You usually just remove the small silicone cap to reveal the fill opening. Insert the tip of the squeeze bottle and fill up the cartridge. Replace the cap and it’s ready to go. Some pods have an even easier filling system, like the Innokin EQ. Instead of a cap, you just twist the base of the tank. There are even more ways to refill them. Of course there’s always a short wait compared to pre-filled, closed cartridges, but it’s not like you have to plan days ahead either as the whole process barely takes thirty seconds in any case.
And the benefits are clear. Firstly in the variety of liquids available, since you can use any liquid with any nicotine level from the thousands for sale in 10ml bottles. The liquid itself is much cheaper to buy like this, and you can refill each cartridge many times because you only replace it when the coil wears out. You might have realised by now that this is our favourite solution, once you’ve got to grips with it.
Choosing your pod
To pod or not to pod?
Before choosing your pod, make sure it’s the right type of e-cigarette for you. And it might not be.
The compact size is a real advantage of pods, but the downside is the limited battery life. The longer a battery can last without recharging, the bigger it is. This is a physical constraint you can’t get around. And if you’re a heavy user, you may need more than pods can give you.
Their simplicity is another plus, but the settings available on more advanced models or boxes do allow much more flexible use. Some pods, like the Zero by Renova feature a basic setting for power, but adjustable kits give you many more options to adapt the vape to suit you. So, vape pods are a closed system unlike kits with a clearomizer and a box. Kits let you replace those parts from any of hundreds of models on the market, so you can create exactly the device you want or need at any particular moment.
Not all pods are created equal – far from it. So our reviews are here to help you choose the one that’s right for you. The most important factor is the quality of the vape it provides. Some pods don’t render flavours very well, which is disappointing and can really limit your enjoyment. Likewise, a lot of them tend to reduce the hit, i.e. the sensation in your throat caused by nicotine that you need to get just as much as you do from a cigarette. You could balance this with a higher nicotine level, but you’ll soon reach the permitted 20 mg/ml limit without getting enough hits. In this situation, clearomizers are a much better option.
The other major factor is that they don’t leak. There is nothing more annoying than an e-cigarette that leaks. Most are now quite reliable where this is concerned, but there are still exceptions. Our tests will tell you which ones to avoid. And as surprising as it might seem, we consider secondary criteria like size, shape, design and even colour to be essential. All because vaping makes the transition easier and more enjoyable. We’re talking about an object you’ll be holding and using all day long, so anything that makes it more comfortable and nicer to use is important. The more you enjoy using your pod or your e-cigarette, whatever type it is, the easier it will be for you to switch and to stick to it.
There are a few less important factors, but don’t overlook them when you’re choosing. We’ve actually put battery life in this section deliberately. It’s a bit controversial I admit, but we have good reason for doing it. As we’ve already said, running out of battery should be avoided at all costs, just like running out of liquid. And we’re still sure that the best way to avoid that is to have two pods. One can be recharging while you’re using the other, or if one stops working you’ll have a spare.
The best way to ensure you always have an e-cigarette to hand is to get two. Pods are so small that you can have more than one without being weighed down or feeling cluttered. Choose a vape pod with battery life that works for you, and get two of them. That way you won’t pounce on a pack of cigarettes if you forget to charge the battery or leave your liquid at home. Yes, two pods are twice as expensive to buy. But we wouldn’t hesitate to describe the cost as secondary, even if you doubled it. Do a quick calculation of the cost of a pack of cigarettes. Two pods will pay for themselves in a few weeks at most. Then work out the monthly cost of cigarettes and compare it to the cost of using an e-cigarette.
Finally, add on the value of your new and improved life after quitting smoking. That’s why we think a few dozen euros of initial outlay is secondary. Choose a vape pod that gives you the most effective, long-lasting transition to e-cigarettes. It’s the only factor that matters when you buy one, and it’s the only one you’ll remember when you stop buying cigarettes!