Vape Tech: On the Cutting Edge
Vape Tech: On the Cutting Edge
As with the early days of home computing or cellular phones, every generation of vape tech seems to leapfrog the gear that came before it.
As late as 2011, we were using first-generation cigalikes. These devices used cartridges stuffed with wicking material that had to be saturated with liquid, as no one had even developed a tank system to feed liquid to our coils. Power delivery was fixed at a rate that produced clouds dwarfed by today's most basic vape devices.
Since the onset of vaping in 2006, we've seen the advent of finicky carto tanks that begat clearomizers with replaceable coils and windows where you could keep an eye on your juice levels. Clearomizers further morphed into sub-ohm tanks with top-fill systems that meant you didn't have to disassemble your entire vape to refill.
Adjustable power settings came first in the form of variable voltage, then variable wattage, then with chipsets so advanced they can deliver super accurate performance in terms of output. And, as far as battery life and vapor production, today’s new-generation cigalikes perform as well as the most advanced mods did just a few years ago.
Think of the leapfrogging improvements in vape tech as similar to the evolution from cell phones that started out the size of a brick to today’s sleek iPhone. And an even brighter future for vaping is ahead. Let's take a look at some of the most exciting vape tech breakthroughs of 2018.
Artificial Intelligence: Move to the Beat
That's right folks, AI is making the vape world, well, more intelligent. For your consideration, we present the iJoy Avenger 270. Released in early 2018 but still very much relevant today, this is the first mod we've seen with voice activation technology.
With a simple "Hello iJoy" command that works like phone assistants (Siri) or interactive audio systems (Alexa), your mod understands you. Tell it to increase or decrease power. Command it to shut off or change the color of its integrated LED system. Heck, you can even instruct it to dance and blink pulsing, strobing colorful lights that respond to your voice or any music that's playing within earshot. Now that's a party trick.
Another great feature of the Avenger that we expect to see a lot more of in 2019 is its acceptance of 21700 batteries. Experienced vapers are familiar with the 18650 (18 mm wide x 65 mm long) cells that have become the industry standard. Those in the know are also aware that this form factor has been pretty much maxed out when it comes to storage capacity and discharge. As if vying for a spot on Tim Taylor's workbench, power tool manufacturers—and now iJoy—are switching from 18650s to 21700s to further the quest for More Power (and better longevity, if that's your thing).
The best part? iJoy's Avenger kit is affordable and includes a first-rate tank system in addition to the mod itself. It’s priced competitively with other (dare we say lesser?) mods on the market today. And don't worry if you're fully stocked on 18650 mated pairs, included with the system is an adapter that allows you to use your old batteries.
2. One Pod to Rule Them All
Maybe bigger box mods aren’t your thing. We get it, there's an allure to the simplicity and compactness of the latest generation of pod mods. Still, wouldn't it be nice if there was something to bridge the gap between the performance of advanced devices and the portability of those not-quite-cigalikes?
Let us introduce Lost Vape's Orion DNA Go–the device offering the best of both worlds. This pod mod is powered by a 40-watt DNA chip. Knowledgeable vapers will immediately recognize the original DNA 40 as the chip that started the variable wattage revolution. This new generation chipset is packed with features DNA fans know and love, along with some exciting new bells and whistles.
It still offers the ability to connect your device to your computer and fine-tune your software. But for on-the-go tweaks, the Orion now offers a genius “Replay” feature. Did you just get the perfect hit from your current coil and liquid pairing? Lock in the settings to instantly repeat that blissful feeling all day long. Also, a ‘Boost’ feature quickly ramps up the coil temperature, meaning you don’t have to take a long drag waiting for vapor production to begin.
But the most impressive part is that all of this is even available in a pod mod–it's the first subcompact device to not only allow variable power output, but it features a 3 ml top-fill pod (also a first), adjustable airflow at the drip tip (again, wow), and a choice of coil options inside the pod to accommodate both direct-lung and mouth-to-lung vaping styles.
A 950 mAh battery provides more power than most devices its size, but it's still capable of reaching a full charge in under 45 minutes. A quick double click of the fire button alerts you to charge status, and a power adjustment allows you to cycle through three pre-set wattage levels.
Stuffing this much tech into a device that's easily half the size of the typical advanced personal vaporizer is a feat indeed–we look forward to seeing what's next.
3. Getting Meshy
Some of the most exciting developments we've seen in vape tech haven't necessarily been external– you have to look deep within to find them.
While most vapor hardware has evolved over the years, the guts of vapor products have remained relatively static: the coils.
Sure, we've experimented over the years with different wires—A1 Kanthal (pretty good), nickel (not so good), titanium, and finally, stainless steel. But we're still doing the same thing with that wire—winding it into a springlike circular coil and attaching the ends to positive and negative poles to generate heat.
A comparable lack of progress has been made when it comes to what we're wicking those coils with. Sure, we've evolved from silica in the low-output devices of yore. And those in the rebuilding community also passed through a rayon phase. But organic cotton has pretty much been the wicking staple for top-flight sub ohm tanks since 2014.
Until now, that is.
Let's take a look at the HorizonTech Falcon tank, one of our favorites and perhaps the most underrated tank of the year. You may remember when Horizon first came onto the scene with its Arctic series, the first third-generation clearomizer from a small-market manufacturer. The Arctic took the sub-ohm market by storm, quickly devouring the lunches of both the Aspire Atlantis and Kanger Subtank.
The Falcon revolutionizes the tank game again for a couple of reasons, both found in its groundbreaking coils.
First, is the coil itself—while coiled-wire variants are available, the Falcon was one of the first to experiment with stainless steel mesh instead of the standard wrap. This allows more e-liquid to contact the finely-perforated screen, resulting in a more flavorful, fuller vaping experience. We're glad to see mesh coils popping up in a handful of other devices, including the Smok TFV12.
It's not just the coil that's been reimagined in 2018; we're finally getting the wicking upgrade we've long sought.
Yes, the Falcon still incorporates cotton as a primary wicking material. But to affect quicker, more evenly-distributed juice uptake, they've added flax fiber to the traditional coils and wood pulp (yes, wood pulp) to their mesh units. The reviews are in and these new wicks check all the boxes: quick wicking with no dry hits, beautifully dense vapor, and flavor transfer that's head and toes above the competition. Better yet, depending on your vaping habits, they can last from a week to 10 days or more. This makes up for the slightly higher replacement cost compared to regular coils, which you'd change out every four or five days.
Better news yet? We hear an update to the Falcon which, at six months old, is getting pretty long in the tooth in vape years, is on the way…
If you're looking for a more mainstream brand (or a tank that can easily be found packaged with an advanced mod), search no further than the Smok TFV12 Prince. Beginning way back in 2015, SmokTech's TFV series revolutionized the market for sub-ohm clearomizers, ushering in the third generation of tank tech that we're living in today with the introduction of the TFV4.
The TFV12 is the third in the series, offering many of the same benefits as the Falcon - there's a bubble glass sleeve that boosts the already-impressive 6 ml liquid capacity to a whopping 8 ml, along with a resin drip tip to avoid overheating. A hinged swing-away top fill lid makes refills even easier with one-handed opening and closing with no top cap to drop or lose.
If coil options are what you're after, the TFV12 has you covered with mesh and strip coil options in addition to multiple available RBA decks and disposable wire coils with as many as 12 (!) individual coils packed into a single atomizer.
2019 and Ahead
These are some of the best breakthroughs we've seen so far this year. Now, it’s time to look ahead. Here is what are we looking forward to in 2019.
The 21700 Battery
The more obvious upgrade we see coming is a switch in battery form. Vapers long ago abandoned 18350 and 18500 cells because they weren't capable of the high discharge rates mega-wattage vaping requires. The next fatality were 26650 cells because they were too bulky.
For years, 18650s have been the industry standard for anything that doesn't use a lithium-polymer pack. They're in your laptop if it has a removable battery. If you use cordless power tools, 18650s bring them to life. If you drive a Tesla, you're sitting on top of literally thousands of them (7,104 to be exact).
But battery experts seem to agree we've pretty much maxed out the potential of the 18650. In order to increase storage capacity, you've got to sacrifice space for heat dissipation, meaning a lower safe output. To increase power, you need more room for cooling components, which leads to shorter runtime.
Enter the 21700. Just 3 mm wider and 5 mm longer than an 18650, the size difference is negligible. But this tiny bit of expanded space goes a long way. With the standard 20 amp continuous discharge most modern dual-cell box mods require, the highest storage capacity is around 3000 milliamp hours (mAh). That's better than the 1500, 2000, or even 2500 we saw just a few years ago. But again, experts say that's about as high as we'll go. In 21700 form, however, manufacturers are already cranking out 20 amp cells with 5000 mAh or more. Even for the heaviest of vapers, that means you'll be able to get through the day on a pair without even thinking about needing a charge.
Some mods (like the iJoy Avenger featured above) are already implementing 21700 capability. We only expect this trend to continue picking up steam in the new year.
Next, there's a ton of room for improvement when it comes to user interface and immersive experience. What do we mean by that?
Here's a simple example. Cigalike giant JUUL is already in the process of developing (and seeking FDA approval for) a third-generation cigalike with Bluetooth capability. With its new microchipped battery, JUUL says it’ll be able to link a device to a user's smartphone, locking it when it's out of range or within a school's digital fenceline to prevent underage use. They're also touting an on-screen usage tracking app that will give users trying to taper off nicotine the metrics and milestones needed to do so.
While a puff counter on your phone is great, that's old hat when it comes to advanced personal vaporizers. We're thinking bigger. Consider the computer connectivity of DNA and other popular advanced chipset manufacturers. Now imagine those devices with Bluetooth, allowing you to connect to your mod to adjust ramp-up settings, TCR curves, or whatever else you want on-the-go with a mobile device, without needing a USB cable to dock to your computer.
We're sure there's even more in store that we haven't dreamed of yet. That's what makes being on the cutting edge of vape tech so exciting. Stick with us in 2019 as we continue to explore the latest vapor developments as they happen.