Back in 2015, I had the opportunity to try an early iteration of a heat-not-burn device. It wasn’t particularly good, but the technology intrigued me. Being a vaper, I wasn’t sure how I would view the product itself, but I know that vaping isn’t for everyone so having another alternative can only be a good thing, right?
I’m not entirely sure if PMI chose the name (IQOS) out of deference to Apple but, they did make sure that the presentation was good.
What’s in the Box?
Tucked under the product tray containing the IQOS pocket charger and the holder are the accessories. Mains adaptor for the USB charging cable, a cleaning device and a bunch of cleaning sticks. Oh, and a manual; which isn’t particularly clear on certain points which I’ll come back to.
Out of the box the pocket charger has approximately 50% charge which means you can get cracking immediately – if, like me, you’re the impatient sort.
Unfortunately, my very first try wasn’t all that successful. Partly because I’m impatient, but mostly because I was an idiot bloke that didn’t read the manual. You see I popped the HEET stick into the holder, pressed the button and waited for it to be ready. I took a few puffs and accidentally hit the button again essentially turning the device off.
This caused a minor problem as the device wouldn’t turn on again. I then didn’t take the HEET out correctly which left the plug of tobacco impaled on the heating blade. I later learned – through ‘reading’ the manual – that removal of a HEET requires the upper part of the holder to be pulled up, thereby lifting the entire HEET (tobacco plug included) off the heating blade.
The HEETS are, essentially, mini cigarettes. Unlike cigarettes, they don’t contain a lot of tobacco, which is, in fact, entirely the point. Unlike a cigarette, HEETS aren’t meant to be set on fire. The whole idea is that the special tobacco plug is heated to a specific temperature to give the user the taste and sensation of smoking, but without all the other stuff that comes from setting tobacco on fire.
Using the device felt a little strange at first as I was inclined to try and hold it like a traditional cigarette; which you can’t. Not quite anyway.
Is it any good?
I was lucky enough to be able to sample two of the HEETS ‘flavours’ – Yellow (roughly equivalent to Marlboro Light) and Turquoise (Menthol) and both tasted as I expected. The Yellow HEETS were smooth and full flavoured, while the Turquoise HEETS weren’t overpoweringly menthol (like some traditional cigarettes can be).
Both offered a warm tobacco taste which left a mild ‘just smoked’ aftertaste which wasn’t unpleasant.
During use, there is a mild tobacco scent which I found to be rather agreeable. However, I did notice a one thing missing. When smoking, there is a faintly audible cue when taking a puff, this isn’t present when using the IQOS. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it is just something I noticed. After all, IQOS isn’t meant to be an exact like-for-like to smoking, it is an alternative to smoking.
A few points to make here. During use, the flavour of the HEET does diminish after half a dozen puffs (give or take), and in some cases, it did taste slightly odd towards the end of the 6 minute (or 14 puff) cycle. This sensation seemed to become more prevalent the more HEET sticks used from a single pack of 20. With a freshly cleaned (or brand new) device, the taste lasts a lot longer.
With smoking, there is a necessity to set aside time to smoke a whole cigarette. The time taken does, of course, vary between individuals. With the IQOS, there’s a set limit of 6 minutes (or 14 puffs whichever comes first). Some smokers take longer than 6 minutes; especially when smoking roll-your-own tobacco which, when left unattended in the ashtray, goes out after a while – unlike a pre-made cigarette which just burns down to the filter.
The battery life of the pocket charger is very good. I managed to get three days of continual use from mine before I had to put it on charge. Sadly, a full charge for the pocket charger takes about 90 minutes. But that is offset by the fact that a full charge can last a few days – dependant on the use pattern.
Cleaning the IQOS holder is a bit of a faff. There are two options – the cleaning brush or the cleaning solution soaked q-tip. I found that using the brush followed by a q-tip rather than one or the other, gave me a better experience post-clean. It is recommended that the holder is cleaned after 20 HEETS are used, and there is a notification LED on the pocket charger to remind you to clean it.
The IQOS does a very good job of mimicking smoking in more ways than one. The slight smell during use, the taste and the sensation all contribute to a solid experience. Some may find cleaning the holder a pain, but it is, unfortunately, necessary to maintain the experience.
A surprisingly good experience at that.