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Review – the new iQOS 2.4 Plus

iQOS 2.4 Plus
A box, with my new iQOS in it!

Competition in the Heat not Burn market is beginning to pick up, as you’ll have noticed if you read this site regularly; over the last few months we’ve tested several interesting new devices, from both major tobacco companies and Chinese independents. At the retail level one product is still dominant, however – Philip Morris’s excellent iQOS.

iQOS is pretty widely available now, and it’s the top-selling HnB system around the world by a long way. Technology doesn’t stand still, though, especially for an innovative type of product like this, and some of the devices we’ve been looking at include features that the iQOS has lacked up to now. When competitors are coming out with new ideas (and new products) all over the place, standing still is a great way to wake up one morning and realise you’re not the market leader anymore.

Well, PMI clearly don’t want to be in this position, because for the last week I’ve been playing with a new toy – the iQOS 2.4 Plus. Like the Lil Solid from KT&G I reviewed a few weeks ago this isn’t an entirely new device; it’s an upgrade of the iQOS 2.4 I had already. It is a pretty significant upgrade though, so we thought it deserved another look.

The review

The 2.4 Plus comes in a sturdy and attractive cardboard box. Lifting the top off reveals the usual plastic tray with the two main components resting snugly in their little nests – the portable charging case (PCC), and next to it the actual holder. At first glance these look exactly like my old iQOS 2.4 does, but closer examination soon turned up a few differences. I’ll get back to those though.

Anyway the tray lifts out to reveal a cardboard cover that opens up to give access to the rest of the goodies. The first things you’ll find in there are a warranty card and a very comprehensive, well-illustrated user manual. Under those is a charger and cable, a two-part cleaning brush and a pack of ten cleaning sticks. Along with the three packs of Amber HEETs that came with my starter kit, it’s all you need to get vaping with the new iQOS.

The accessories really are identical to the ones that come with the older version, by the way. Then again, they’re all high quality and do their jobs perfectly. There’s no need for PMI to update them, so they haven’t.

Back to the 2.4 Plus itself, then. As I said, despite initial appearances it isn’t identical to the 2.4. The PCC and holder are pretty much the same, and in fact they’re interchangeable (more on that later), but the vital electronics have been completely overhauled for the new model.

The new PCC is a sleek unit a bit smaller than the average smartphone. It’s a very clean and simple design; there’s a flip-up top at one end, a micro-USB charging port at the other and a row of buttons and LEDs down one side. The top button flips the lid open so you can get at the holder; that and the new Bluetooth button are now finished in a nice gold colour. The third button is less obtrusive; it’s the power button, at the bottom of the row. This lets you power the whole unit down, although I never do this and I’ve never spoken to anyone who does. On the plus side, a quick press on this button will show you the PCC’s charge status.

Between the two gold buttons is a row of five bright white LEDs. The top one, easily recognised because it’s elongated, lights up to show that the holder is charging. The other four show how much charge is left in the PCC, in increments of 25%; they’re illuminated while the holder charges, when the PCC is plugged in or if you press the power button.

Let’s move on to the holder, then. When you press the top button on the PCC, the cap flips open in a satisfyingly positive way (I must admit, I just love the standard of engineering on this device). Under the cap is the holder, nestled snugly in its charging slot. Again it doesn’t look like much has changed, but there’s been a lot of work done on the innards.

The new holder is the same slim, lightweight unit as before, with a single LED-illuminated button (again coloured gold in the new model) to turn it on. It’s small enough to be held like an actual cigarette, and just light enough that I can even work with it balanced unsupported on my lip like an old-time journalist’s unfiltered Woodbine.

I should also mention that Bluetooth button. Pressing this lets you link the PCC to any Android device with a Bluetooth connection, and you can then manage it with the My iQOS app for Android. Unfortunately, so far this app only seems to be available in Switzerland, and the current language options are German and French. I speak pretty good German but I don’t live in Switzerland, so I haven’t been able to test it out so far. However, it should be rolling out more widely in the near future. As soon as it does I’ll download it and let you all know what it does.

Overall the iQOS 2.4 Plus is a familiar package, but a superbly engineered one. Externally it doesn’t look much different from older versions, but a device like this runs on its electronics and that’s where the upgrades have been made. So, what’s it like to use?

Vaping the new iQOS

With my shiny new iQOS fully charged I dug out the holder, plugged in an Amber HEET and held down the smart gold power button. After a couple of seconds the holder vibrated to let me know it was powered up and heating – a nice touch that I’ve seen on other devices, but was missing from iQOS before. At the same time the LED in the button starts to pulse; when it switches from pulsing to a steady glow (just under 20 seconds) you’re ready to vape. It would be nice if it vibrated again to let you know it was warmed up, but the white LED is bright enough to do that job anyway.

The actual experience of vaping the 2.4 Plus is very good. There’s plenty of vapour, it’s nice and warm, and the flavour is excellent. I tested it extensively with both Amber and Bronze HEETs (seven packs in total, if you’re interested) and the performance is just great. Apart from my first experience with mild menthol sticks I’ve always been impressed with the iQOS, and the 2.4 Plus carries on the good work.

It’s also extremely usable. Unlike all the other devices I’ve tested, iQOS relies on the PCC to recharge the holder’s small battery between HEETs. This lets the holder come as close to the experience of holding a cigarette as it’s possible to get, but it does impose a delay between HEETs as you recharge it. This has never been a big problem for me, but PMI seem to have put some work into fixing it anyway. The 2.4 Plus PCC takes just two and a half minutes to fully charge the holder.

I mentioned earlier that the components are interchangeable between the old and new versions, so out of curiosity I vaped one HEET then put the 2.4 Plus holder in the 2.4 PCC to recharge. It worked fine, too – but it took almost four minutes. If you want the new high-speed recharge you need to use the 2.4 Plus components together. On the other hand, if you have an extra holder for your 2.4 the new PCC will top it up while you vape the new one.

A single vaping session on the 2.4 Plus lasts for five and three-quarter minutes or 14 puffs, whichever you get to first. When you have 45 seconds or two puffs left to go the holder vibrates again, to let you know it’s planning to switch itself off and give you the chance to grab some last-minute nicotine.

One thing that I didn’t notice when I first started using an iQOS is that the top cap of the holder slides. A common theme in my reviews has been the annoying way the tobacco plug in a used HEET sometimes stays in the device when you pull out the stick – the VCOT is the worst offender for this. Well, that isn’t a problem at all with the iQOS 2.4 Plus. When you’re finished vaping all you have to do is push the top cap up half an inch on its rails, like the slide of a very small pump-action shotgun, and the HEET will be neatly removed from the blade every time. I put 140 HEETs through this gadget and didn’t have a single problem with them coming apart on removal. Again, it impressed me with how much effort PMI have put into making this a user-friendly device.

Finally, let’s talk about battery life. I don’t know if the PCC’s battery capacity has been increased or if the new electronics handle it more efficiently, but it held out for an impressively long time. My 2.4 is close to fully discharged after one pack of HEETs; the 2.4 Plus, fast recharge and all, managed the best part of two packs. By the time it finally got down to 25% charge remaining there were 42 used HEETs neatly piled up in my ashtray.

The verdict

If you’re familiar with the iQOS already, well, this is an iQOS. You know roughly what to expect. However, it’s the best iQOS yet; the improvements make a real difference to the user experience, especially the fast charge from the new PCC. Even when I’m racing deadlines and getting through HEETs much faster than normal I never find myself impatiently waiting for the holder to recharge. The battery life is impressive, too; even if you’re a heavy user a single charge of the PCC should be enough to easily last you a day, and recharging it takes less than an hour.

Overall, the iQOS 2.4 Plus is a great device. I like several of the others I’ve tried out, but none of them come as close to the experience of smoking as the iQOS does. Part of that is ergonomic; the small, light holder can be handled pretty much like a cigarette, which makes it very easy to adjust. I get on fine with larger devices, but there’s no doubt the iQOS has a big edge in this department. On top of that it also delivers an excellent vape. Heets seem to have become the new standard, but they were designed for iQOS and they work outstandingly well in it.

If you already have an iQOS the new 2.4 Plus is an attractive upgrade, especially if you were thinking about getting another holder. Don’t; get the 2.4 Plus kit instead and take advantage of that super-fast charge. If you don’t already have an iQOS, but you’re looking for a safer alternative to smoking (or something closer to the smoking experience that e-cigs deliver), the best Heat not Burn device on the market just got even better – and you can get one here, along with three packs of HEETs, for the unbeatable price of £49.

IQOS 2.4 PLUS 60 HEETS OFFER

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Pod Mod review – the new iQOS Mesh

Pod Mod review

A few weeks ago I talked about pod mods, the new generation of ultra-convenient e-cigarettes that are popping up on shelves all over the place. Although we’re mainly interested in Heat not Burn devices here we think pod mods are pretty cool too – they’re much easier to use than conventional e-cigs, which is ideal if you want something that’s as simple as a cigarette. We’re also now selling one, the new iQOS Mesh from PMI, so I thought it would be a good idea if I checked one out to see what it was like. A Mesh was duly ordered, and turned up late last week along with a supply of the VEEV pods it eats.

Before I go any further it’s time for a quick confession. In my previous article on pod mods I said I already had a Mesh. Well, that turned out to be only partly true. Last year I “borrowed” a PMI Mesh from Dick Puddlecote, and at the time I was quite impressed with it. However the new iQOS-branded Mesh is a very different animal. It shares the same design philosophy, but every part of the device and its pods is bang up to date. So, if you’ve read anything about the old Mesh, forget it; the iQOS version is a brand-new product. Let’s have a look at it.

First impressions

The Mesh in its box.

The new Mesh comes in a neat cardboard box; pull the top off and there’s the device itself, nestled in the usual plastic tray. It didn’t take long to start spotting differences. The new Mesh is much longer and slimmer than the old one, and also has a higher quality feel. My old Mesh has a rubberized plastic body, quite short and with a flattened oval cross section; the new one is aluminium except for the plastic end cap, and it’s round. One nice touch is that there’s a flat strip down one side to help stop it rolling away if you lay it on the table. Two-thirds of the body has a nice satin finish; the hollow top end is highly polished.

This is a very simple device. There’s a single power button which turns the Mesh on or off when pressed for three seconds. On the end cap is a micro-USB charging port and an LED indicator that tells you it’s charging. The other end is open; that’s where you plug in the VEEV pod.

Overall the iQOS Mesh feels very solid, but it’s also remarkably light. It’s a much bigger device than a JUUL or MyBlu, roughly the size of a large cigar, but every time I pick it up I’m surprised by how little it weighs. It’s pretty impressive, considering the all-metal body and the fact there’s a 900mAh battery packed away in there.

Apart from the mod itself, there isn’t a huge amount in the box. Lift out the tray and open the cardboard lid underneath, and you’ll find a charging cable and a UK plug adapter for it; that’s all.

IQOS MESH BANNER

The review

Anyway, I don’t believe in messing about, so after playing with my new toy for not very long I plugged it in and topped up the battery. It was pretty well charged straight out the box, so the next time I looked away from my screen for a minute it was ready to go (a full charge takes about an hour, and it has a passthrough feature, so you can vape while it charges).

Old (left) and new Mesh pods. They both hold 2ml of liquid.

With the battery fully charged I dug out a Tobacco Harmony-flavoured VEEV pod and unwrapped it. These are also very different from the old Mesh pods. For a start, they’re a whole lot smaller. The old pods clipped over the end of the battery, and had a lot of empty space inside; the new ones plug into the hollow cone at the top of the mod, so they can be a lot more compact for a similar liquid capacity (I can’t remember how much the old ones held, but they were TPD-compliant, so no more than 2ml; the new ones contain 2ml of 6mg, 11mg or 18mg liquid). The actual heating element is the same idea, though; instead of a coil it’s a small square of fine wire mesh which seems to double as a wick, so there’s no risk of anything burning. In fact the Mesh is actually a temperature control device; it regulates the power going to the wick to prevent overheating and the dreaded “dry puff”.

To stop liquid moving around inside unused pods and dribbling out the mouthpiece there’s a small rubber seal fitted to each pod. Once you’ve unwrapped the pod all you have to do is pull out the seal and plug the pod into the end of the device. They fit either way up; just don’t use any force to insert it. If it’s not going in just twist it gently until it does.

With a VEEV loaded, all you have to do is press the button for a couple of seconds until it lights up, then take a puff. It’s not a fire button; the Mesh has an automatic switch that heats up when you puff. The button is purely an off/on switch. If you don’t take a puff for three minutes the Mesh will automatically power down again.

As for the actual vaping experience, I was impressed! I’ve read one review that said the vapour production and throat hit were disappointing. Well, all I can say is they must have been doing it wrong, because I get plenty of vapour out of mine. Is the throat hit the same as I get from my usual combo of a Rouleaux RX200 and Limitless RDTA loaded with 24mg liquid? Of course not. Then again you could put the Rouleaux in a sock and beat rhinos to death with it, and it dribbles like a senile dog. The Mesh is slim, light and compact, and it never leaks. At all.

My Mesh came with two flavours – Tobacco Harmony is a rich tobacco blend, and Cool Peppermint; you can probably guess what that one tastes of. Both flavours were excellent; although I never liked menthol cigarettes I really got to like the peppermint, in particular. For the average user a VEEV pod should last about a day, making it roughly equivalent to a pack of cigarettes – and, at £2.99 for a pack of two, a lot cheaper. The battery holds enough charge to get through a whole pod and part of the next one, but I tended to recharge it between pods anyway.

The point to keep in mind is that the Mesh wasn’t designed to replace your favourite mod and dripper. It’s an easy to use, but very effective, device aimed at people who just want a simple alternative to cigarettes. I think it’s ideal for that – and it’s a great choice if you want some thing compact and non-dribbly to take to the pub, as well. In short, it does exactly what a pod mod is supposed to do, and it does it very well.

Verdict

I liked the original Mesh when I tried it last year, and I like the new, improved version even more. PMI have taken a good basic concept and made it even better, producing a very well-made pod mod that’s simple, effective and great value. If you’re looking for an e-cig that just works, with no messing around with refill bottles or coil changes, the iQOS Mesh is an excellent choice.

To see our entire iQOS Mesh and VEEV collection please click here.

IQOS Mesh Logo

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We are now selling the new IQOS 2.4 Plus

IQOS 2.4 PLUS

We have been selling the excellent IQOS 2.4 for some time now but we are now very pleased to announce that we have now replaced that with the brand new all-singing and all-dancing IQOS 2.4 Plus.

There is of course nothing wrong with the 2.4 version that we have been selling for some time, it is just that Phillip Morris are always innovating so that they maintain their global position as the leading seller of quality heat not burn devices on the market today. Their dedication to improving an already superb product means that the IQOS 2.4 Plus is at the cutting edge of HnB technology.

IQOS 2.4 PLUS NAVY UNIT AND HOLDER

Here are the upgrades on the IQOS 2.4 Plus over its predecessor the IQOS 2.4:

  • The holder charges 20% faster.
  • The unit vibrates to alert the user that it is ready and vibrates again when you have 2 puffs or 30 seconds remaining.
  • Bluetooth enabled and can be linked to an App (Android only.)

Because of this upgrade we will no longer be selling the IQOS 2.4 but we are very happy to be able to say that we can sell this for the SAME PRICE of £49 for this new IQOS 2.4 Plus and 60 HEETS! This is an amazing deal for a limited period only.

The iQOS is the result of major development from Phillip Morris in their quest to develop a reduced risk product for adult smokers to switch to and what we have here is a very nice well made device.

To read about what we personally think of the iQOS 2.4 Plus please take a read of our very thorough review that we did in October 2018.

When choosing HEETS we have 3 different flavours available, that is AMBER (Full), YELLOW (Smooth) and TURQUOISE (Menthol) or if you are not sure then why not go for the MIXED option and be sent 20 of each?

IQOS 2.4 PLUS SIDE PROFILE

For more information and to make a purchase please CLICK HERE to see our full iQOS range. 🙂

 

IQOS 2.4 PLUS 60 HEETS OFFER

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Dud or diamond? – The VCOT from Ewildfire

VCOT from Ewildfire

So, it’s that time again. The postman delivered a parcel from China last week, I’ve been playing with a new gadget since then, and now it’s time to give all you Heat not Burn fans the inside scoop on the latest and greatest (well, we’ll see about that) in tobacco vaporisation technology.

This time, my new toy is the VCOT from Ewildfires. It’s the latest product from Shenzhen, the Chinese industrial region that’s become the global hub of e-cigarette manufacturing and is now trying to grab a foothold in the HnB market as well. We’ve already reviewed a few devices from Chinese companies – the iBuddy i1, EFOS E1 and NOS – and a couple of them were pretty impressive. So how does the VCOT stack up?

The Review

The VCOT is brand new – so new that I’m not going to go through the traditional unboxing experience. The retail packaging hasn’t even been designed yet, so my review sample turned up in a plain cardboard box and a nest of bubble wrap, with no accessories. There wasn’t even an instruction manual; that arrived by email. It wouldn’t be fair to comment – or even speculate – on packaging and accessories that I haven’t seen, so for this review I’ll only be looking at the vaporiser itself.

As I said, the VCOT is brand new, and its designers have obviously tried to push the technological envelope a bit. Like the NOS we looked at a few weeks ago it’s a temperature-controlled device that lets you set the operating temperature to get the vape you want.

Bottom view of the VCOTApart from the temperature control feature, the VCOT is pretty conventional. It uses PMI’s widely available Heets, for a start. The body is basically rectangular with rounded edges and corners, and it fits nicely in the hand. You can’t hold it like a cigarette, as you can with iQOS, but it’s comfortable enough. It’s also very light. The body seems to be all metal and made in three parts; front, back, and a strip that forms the top and base as well as holding it all together.

So if the body is all metal, how come the device is so light? The answer is that the metal is very thin. The front and back are stamped out of sheet. I don’t know what the sheet is, but it isn’t steel – I couldn’t get my neodymium supermagnets to stick to it. It could be aluminium; the glossy, deep blue finish looks like it could be anodised.

Unfortunately, the thin metal gives the VCOT a slightly flimsy feel. If I squeeze the body between finger and thumb it flexes slightly and lets out a chorus of creaking and clicking sounds. Shaking it isn’t reassuring either; something – probably the battery pack – rattles around inside. That isn’t just an annoyance, because if things are free to move it increases wear and tear on wiring, so the device is more likely to fail (more on that later).

Top view of the VCOTMoving on, the VCOT has the usual Heet-sized (more on that, too) hole at the top, protected by a sliding plastic cover. The cover feels solid and has grooves moulded into its surface, so it’s easy to operate. The heating chamber itself is similar to the EFOS – there’s no spike or blade, and the heating element is built into the walls of the chamber. On the base of the device is a micro-USB charging port and an air intake hole that lines up with the heating chamber.

All the work is done at the front of the device, on an inlaid black plastic panel. At the top of this is the power button, and at the bottom the temperature up/down buttons and a blue LED to show current status. In between the buttons is a 0.7” OLED screen, which gives a nice clear, bright image.

So, on build quality, the VCOT isn’t really up to the standard of the other devices I’ve reviewed. Even the plastic-bodied EFOS has a much more solid feel to it. On the other hand the VCOT does pack in a 2,200mAh battery, which hints at good battery life, and it has the advantage of temperature control. If a gadget performs well I can easily overlook a creaky casing. So how does the VCOT stack up when it comes to actually vaping?

Vaping the VCOT

Putting a full charge in the VCOT takes about an hour, which is pretty reasonable, and you’ll know when it’s done – the LED on the front blinks brightly while it’s charging, and the battery indicator on the screen makes it easy to see how much progress you’re making. When the LED and screen switch off it’s fully charged and ready to go.

Loading the VCOT is pretty simple; all you have to do is slide the cover back and push the tobacco end of the Heet into the heating chamber. This has to be done carefully though, as there’s a bit of resistance for the last half inch. With no blade or spike to force into the tobacco, this turns out to be because the heating chamber is a tighter fit than the EFOS. Still, I managed to get all my Heets in without breaking them, so it’s not a major problem.

With a stick in the chamber you can now turn the VCOT on by pressing the power button five times. I think I’ve already vented my feelings about this; a single long press on the button is just as resistant to accidental activation, and these microswitches won’t last an infinite number of presses. Again, though, this isn’t a big deal.

Once the device turns on you’ll see the temperature readout on the screen start to rise. While it’s heating up you can use the up and down buttons to adjust it to the temperature you want. The temperature range is from 220-250°C, which seemed a bit on the low side; iQOS runs at 350°C, and when I played with the NOS a few weeks ago it was happiest between 320°C and 335°C. The VCOT seemed to be pitched a little low, but as it turned out this wasn’t really an issue.

Here’s something that was an issue; it takes forever to heat up. Our current champ in that respect is the NOS, which went from room temperature to 325°C in a mere nine seconds. The VCOT took just over a minute (61 seconds, to be precise) to show 250°C on the display, and that just isn’t good enough. Then it kept me hanging on for another 20 seconds before it buzzed to tell me it was ready to vape.

The vape’s OK, if you set it to 250°C.

A few little issues

A vaping session on the VCOT lasts for three minutes and 30 seconds. When your time’s up it simply buzzes and switches off; there’s no warning to give you time to grab a last puff. Then it’s time to take out the used Heet – and that’s where the fun really begins.

With most of the HnB devices I’ve tested (the Glo and NOS are honourable exceptions) I’ve had the occasional stick leave its plug of tobacco behind in the chamber. This is mildly annoying, but no big deal; you can easily take the top of the device apart and dig out the debris with a brush.

Burned and broken Heets – not a good sign.

With the VCOT, about half the Heets I used broke off at the joint between the tobacco plug and the hollow section above it. The first time this happened (which was also the first Heet I vaped with it) I found, to my annoyance, that there’s no way to dismantle the device for easier access to the chamber. I had to resort to digging out the tobacco with a bit of wire, then using a brush to clear the remaining debris.

Examining this debris, and the Heets I managed to extract in one piece, was interesting. The display might say 250°C, but the inside of the chamber is getting hot enough to char the Heet’s paper tube quite badly – and, a lot of the time, it’s burning it to ash. That seems to be why so many of them break; the paper disintegrates and lets the foil liner stick to the wall of the chamber. The actual tobacco isn’t burned, like it was with the EFOS, but I’m still not convinced this is really in the Heat not Burn spirit.

I also found that, sometimes, the VCOT just doesn’t work. I’d press the button five times, the display would light up, then the temperature readout would stick at either the high 20s or the high 40s. If I left it alone, an error message would flash up on the screen – “CHECK FPC!” – or it would just turn itself off. After some fiddling I found that sometimes pulling out the Heet would unblock it; the temperature would start to rise, and I could put the Heet back in and wait for it to reach operating temperature. Other times I had to plug in the charging cable briefly, which seemed to reset it, then I could power it back up again.

Conclusions

I’m conscious that this is a pre-release device, so I don’t want to be too hard on it. The VCOT has some potential. It’s compact and has decent battery life – a full charge will see you through a pack of Heets and maybe a little more. The vape is acceptable at the higher end of the temperature range. If it’s priced appropriately it could be a reasonable choice for those on a budget – as long as these points are fixed:

  • The heating chamber needs to be made slightly larger; it’s too tight. With no way to dismantle the device for cleaning, its tendency to tear the ends off used Heets isn’t acceptable.
  • Heat up time needs to be radically reduced, to 20 seconds or less. More than a minute is simply not good enough.
  • Reliability needs to be improved. I expect a device like this to work properly every time I switch it on. The VCOT doesn’t.
  • Whatever’s rattling around inside needs to be fixed in place. Any movement risks weakening, and eventually breaking, soldered joints. Is this the cause of its unreliability? Could be.

Deal with all these issues and, as I said, the VCOT might have some potential. It does have temperature control and its battery life is better than the NOS, so there are a couple of positives there. However, right now I just can’t recommend it. Get an iQOS instead.

 

 

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Heat not Burn news roundup – August 2018

Heat not Burn news roundup

Over the last few weeks we’ve been pretty busy finding new Heat not Burn devices to review, and we have a few on their way to us right now. We still find time to check the news, though, and we decided it was time to give you another update on what’s happening with HnB around the world.

As usual the news is a pretty mixed bag. There’s some good news from the UK, where a parliamentary committee has given HnB a thumbs-up in its latest report on reduced-harm products. There’s bad news from India, where anti-tobacco activists are spreading misinformation about iQOS before it’s even on sale. Philip Morris are challenging New Zealand rules that force Heets to be sold with the same packaging and health warnings as cigarettes, and slowing growth for iQOS is being chalked up to increasing competition as other companies enter the market. Overall the last few weeks have been pretty lively for HnB, and we don’t expect that to slow down any time soon.

Indian ANTZ take aim at iQOS

iQOS is currently on sale in 38 countries around the world, but hasn’t yet challenged cigarettes in one of their biggest markets – India. PMI is now planning to launch the device in India, most likely in the first half of 2019, but anti-harm reduction activists are already mobilising to protect the status quo. The first salvo in this battle was fired in mid-August with an article in The Hindu, one of India’s two leading newspapers.

The article was written by Vandana Shah, South Asia Programs Director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, an American organisation that’s already notorious for its fanatical opposition to e-cigarettes. As would be expected from Tobacco Free Kids it’s very light on science, and very heavy on alarming but unfounded claims. Shah tells us that there’s no evidence HnB is safer than smoking (there is) and that the products are aimed at young people (they’re not). He claims iQOS is “designed and packaged to resemble a sleek smartphone” to appeal to under-25s – the only thing its design has in common with a smartphone is that it’s vaguely rectangular.

In another article, published by the Deccan Chronicle, cancer specialist Dr Vijay Anand Reddy claimed that “any form of tobacco is carcinogenic. The new method of heated tobacco does not mean that the chemicals in the products are reduced.” This statement is simply false; tests conducted by independent labs have found dramatic reductions in all significant toxins in iQOS vapour compared to cigarette smoke.

Almost a quarter of a billion Indians use traditional tobacco products, so a successful iQOS launch in the country has the potential to save a huge number of lives. However, that goal is threatened by extremists like Shah and Reddy. Indian harm reduction advocates need to come out fighting before this propaganda swings public opinion against safer products.

HnB competition heats up

Investment experts are talking down PMI shares this week in what many have interpreted as a sign of weakness in the market. Leading adviser Jefferies Group have changed their “Buy” recommendation to “Hold”, meaning that while hanging on to the shares is a good idea this isn’t the right time to be buying more.

Jefferies Group’s actual explanation for the change is good news for Heat not Burn, though. The downgrade was triggered by slower than expected growth in iQOS sales – and that’s happening because rival products are hitting the shelves. While iQOS is still growing and will continue to do so, it’s now facing some serious competition at last; BAT’s Glo is rolling out across Europe this year, KT&G are mounting a strong challenge in the important South Korean market with their Lil, and Chinese industry is piling on with a series of devices that piggyback on the availability of PMI’s Heets (and will probably help keep Heet sales rising).

Despite the downgrade, PMI is still outperforming Altria – the cigarette-only side of Philip Morris. That’s being driven by strong iQOS growth in Europe and other new markets, while Altria’s cigarette sales are sharply down.

PMI challenges NZ packaging rules for Heets

The last legal obstacles to selling Heets in New Zealand seem to have been removed, but PMI says the country’s laws are still too restrictive. In early August the company announced that to comply with the Ministry of Health’s interpretation of the law, they’ll put the HnB consumables in cigarette-style standardised packaging with the usual gruesome health warnings. However they’re only doing that under protest.

James Williams, general manager of Philip Morris NZ, says that labelling Heets with health warnings meant for cigarettes is “inappropriate and misleading”. With a growing body of evidence to say that HnB products eliminate almost all the health risks of smoking, the company wants the laws on packaging to reflect that key difference. While PMI are happy to note that Heets are not risk-free and do contain nicotine, they object to warnings that falsely claim iQOS produces smoke and causes the same health issues as cigarettes do.

According to Williams smokers deserve access to accurate and non-misleading information about reduced-risk products. Right now, New Zealand’s packaging laws aren’t giving them that.

UK parliament committee backs HnB

A report last week by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee was praised for strongly supporting e-cigarettes – but it also recommended that the government should ease restrictions and lower taxes on other tobacco harm reduction products, including HnB and Swedish snus. According to the influential committee tobacco products should be taxed at a rate that reflects the health risk they present.

HnB devices like iQOS are, conservatively, at least 90% less harmful than cigarettes, and that could make a big difference to the price of Heets. Right now, Heets are priced at roughly the same point as cigarettes, but that’s a hedge against them being taxed at the same level in the future. If they benefited from a much lover rate of tax there would be room for PMI to cut the price dramatically while still making a profit. iQOS and similar devices are already a tempting alternative to cigarettes; if the price of Heets fell in proportion to the reduced risk they deliver they’d attract even more smokers.

 

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Another New Gadget – the NOS Tobacco Vaporizer

NOS Tobacco Vapouriser

When Heat not Burn UK launched, we had a real struggle finding new devices to talk about. There was the iQOS, and then there was . . . OK, there was the iQOS, and that was pretty much it. We looked at a couple of loose leaf vaporizers, which turned out to work pretty well with tobacco if you prepare it the right way, but as far as purpose-made HnB devices went, iQOS was really the only game in town.

That’s changing now. Chinese manufacturers are starting to come up with their own designs and it’s all getting quite exciting. I’ve already tested a couple of new devices from China this year – the iBuddy i1 and EFOS E1 – and recently I got another one to play with. The new toy is the NOS from Shenzhen Huachang Industrial Company, and like the other two it used PMI’s Heets. It also has a couple of interesting features that made me very keen to try it out. I’ve spent the last week giving it the usual HnB UK test, and now I’m going to tell you all about it.

The Review

The NOS comes in a sturdy and attractive cardboard box. The outer box is in two halves that were sealed with a sticker; once I’d cut that and pulled the halves apart a flap was revealed, with the NOS underneath in a little foam nest. Lifting the foam out, I found a warranty card and quick start guide, and under those was another layer of foam holding a USB charger and plug, some cleaning sticks and the heating coil, which needs to be installed before using the device.

Once I’d pawed through everything in the box I took a look at the device itself. The NOS is quite small – a fraction of an inch longer than an iQOS, and a lot less bulky than most  of the others I’ve looked at. Its mostly rectangular body looks like a very small box mod with an oversized iQOS cap attached to the top. Just below the cap the body swells out slightly into a thumb rest with the power button set into it, and below the thumb rest is a small OLED screen and two more buttons. There’s a micro USB charging port in the base, and that’s it in the way of controls.

As well as being small the NOS is also light. The body is all plastic – there are a couple of panels set into the sides with a carbon fibre pattern on them, but those are just for decoration. However, it seems solid and well put together, with an overall quality feel to it. Inside is a built-in 1,100mAh 18500 battery. The top cap can be easily removed to give access to the heating coil; just twist it slightly anticlockwise and a spring will pop it off. That reveals a well that the coil simply screws into; then simply push the cap back down against the spring and twist it clockwise to lock it back into position.

I was impressed right away at the removable coil. Like the iQOS, the NOS uses a blade to heat the tobacco, but in this case the blade is made of ceramic. That should give it a longer life than a steel blade – Huachang say it’s good for more than 5,000 sticks – but does make it a bit more fragile, so don’t twist Heets as you insert or remove them; you could snap the blade off. To protect it, the blade is mostly hidden inside the body of the coil. When you fit the top cap to the device its inner tube pushes down a spring-loaded platform to reveal the blade.

Now let’s talk about that OLED screen and the two buttons below it. You might remember from my review of the EFOS that it has two temperature settings (one of which is hot enough to char the tip of the Heet), but with that exception HnB devices run at a fixed temperature. The NOS is different. It’s the first HnB product with a real temperature control capability. Those two little buttons let you adjust the temperature from 300°C to 400°C in five degree increments, so you can customise your vaping experience to suit your own preferences.

The NOS in action

Obviously I was pretty keen to try that out, so I topped up the battery – it takes less than an hour to put in a full charge – and broke open a pack of Bronze Heets. The first one fitted easily down the end cap, and I fired the NOS up by pressing the power button five times.

This is where I started to get seriously impressed. The screen lit up and a NOS logo briefly appeared, then the word HEATING. Nine seconds after the last press of the button that changed to WORKING – and so it was. The NOS heats up even faster than the Lil, which is rather nice.

As for how it vapes, I had no complaints there either. The taste wasn’t quite as good as the iQOS, and I have no idea why – I was using exactly the same Heets in both devices. There was plenty of vapour, though, and there was nothing wrong with the taste; the iQOS just seems, to me, to have a slight edge there.

Once it’s up and running the NOS will work for four minutes or twelve puffs, whichever comes sooner. You’ll get a warning buzz five seconds before it shuts down, which just gives you time to grab a final puff.

As far as battery life goes, well, it’s OK but not spectacular. A full charge is good for about ten to twelve sessions, and then you’re going to have to plug it in. It’s not as good as either the iQOS’s portable charging case or Lil and iBuddy’s day-long power capacity, but it’s not actively bad – and it lasts as long as the EFOS despite being a much smaller, neater package.

Anyway, let’s go back to the temperature control feature. This is very easy to use. With the NOS powered up, just press one of the buttons to bring up the display. This will be familiar to any vaper; there’s a battery charge icon,  large digits show the current temperature, and smaller numbers tell you the resistance and voltage (3.8V and 1.3Ω, I case you’re interested).

I ran a couple of packs of Heets through it at the default setting it came at, which was 325°C. Then I broke out another pack, set the device to 300°C and started to work through the pack, clicking it up by 5°C after each Heet. My reasoning was that with 20 Heets in a pack and 5° increments, I could test the full temperature range with a single pack and get an idea of how temperature affected the experience.

Well, I didn’t make it all the way. Not even close, in fact. Anything below 320°C was a bit on the weak side for me. Then I hit a sweet spot at 325°C – how it came out the box, in other words. It was even better at 330-335°, but then things started going downhill again. At 340° there was a vaguely unpleasant burned aftertaste, subtly different from the burned taste of an actual cigarette. At 345°C that was much stronger, and I can’t say I was sorry when it switched itself off. I wasn’t looking forward to 350° very much, and I was right – it was pretty horrible. When the NOS v2 comes out, I’d like to see it going from 300 to 340°C in two-degree increments, because a lot of its current range just isn’t going to get used.

Yes, we test these things pretty thoroughly

After my experiment in temperature control I dropped the power back to 330°C for the rest of the test, and confirmed what I already thought – at that sort of temperature the NOS delivers a very enjoyable vape. We do give these products a proper test, by the way. A typical review involves at least 100 Heets over several days, so the device needs to be cleaned and recharged several times. This isn’t just an unboxing and a couple of quick puffs for the camera.

Conclusions

So anyway, I ran over 100 Heets through the NOS; what do I think of it? Well, I think it’s pretty good! Bigger than the iQOS but smaller than everything else I’ve tried, and with a decent vaping quality, this is a real contender if you’re looking for a safer way to use tobacco. The temperature control feature is its real innovation, and while I don’t think the current setup is perfect it does start to give HnB users the degree of control over the experience that vapers already have. For a price of around $85, the NOS is definitely worth a look.

 

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What growth path can we expect for heat-not-burn in new markets?

Growth

The explosive growth of heat-not-burn products in Japan and Korea, which has taken a huge chunk out of the market for traditional cigarettes, has everyone wondering where else we might see that happen. No one knows the answer for sure, of course, but there are a few patterns that seem fairly safe to predict.

 

Modeling work I did about the uptake of e-cigarettes a few years ago (example) suggests that the uptake of a low-risk tobacco product will have two distinct periods of rapid growth. The first is caused by pent-up demand. Before the product was introduced, there were people who wanted it, though they did not know this yet, of course. As soon as it was introduced, and knowledge about it became widespread, they started buying it. This causes an initial uptick in consumption rather than steady growth along the lines of “X new consumers per week, every week, for a year.”

 

Of course, that increase might not stick. Japan Tobacco introduced an alternative product, Zero Style Mint, in 2010 which was superficially like an e-cigarette or heat-not-burn device. However it basically just consisted of inhaling room-temperature air through a tube past some processed tobacco. This delivered neither enough nicotine nor a sufficiently smoking-like experience to be appealing to smokers. Sales spiked (pent-up demand for an alternative to smoking) and then crashed (almost no one actually liked it). Heat-not-burn has cleared that hurdle. Lots of smokers in Japan and elsewhere really like it.

 

The perfect low-risk substitute for many smokers would be something that was exactly like a cigarette in all ways (aesthetics, appearance and other factors that contribute to cultural acceptability, delivery of nicotine and other psychoactive chemicals, price) except that it posed little health risk, and as a possible added bonus did not make such a mess. Heat-not-burn checks most of those boxes.

 

Of course some smokers actively embrace contrasts with cigarettes, such as the variety of flavors available for e-cigarettes. Some are not be willing to accept any variation on their beloved cigarettes in pursuit of lower risk. But for many, heat-not-burn is close enough (in terms of what they want) and enough lower risk to make that worthwhile.

 

After the initial spike and after the acceptability hurdle is cleared, we can expect a period of slower growth until a particular critical mass of consumers is reached. My modeling was built around the assumption (correct, I still believe) that the “cultural acceptability” hurdle is one of the largest. Someone’s culture, in this case, is a combination of the people who influence him the most (relatives, friends, patrons of the same pubs) and overall popularity in whatever he considers “his” population to be (everyone in the country, people in the region, people in his socioeconomic class). If someone has no friends who use a product and only a tiny portion of the population does, it takes greater determination and confidence for him to make a switch, and he might not even know about the product. If the new product seems just as normal as regular smoking in his culture, acceptability and knowledge are no longer barriers.

 

My modeling suggested that for almost any parameterization (i.e., input assumptions about the distribution of preferences and how people interact) there would come a point when slow growth hit a critical mass. The next few people who switched would be enough to raise the cultural acceptability enough to ensure that even more people quickly switched, and so on. This would feed-forward, creating a rapid rise until most of those who have not switched really do not want to.

 

I did this in the context of e-cigarettes, which had a rather larger cultural acceptability and knowledge hurdle than heat-not-burn. The better early generation products were sufficiently strange and challenging that the pent-up demand spike was modest. The easiest cigarette-like product were not very satisfying, so suffered the Zero Style Mint problem. For almost all smokers, this was not the alternative they were looking for, but just did not have yet. The second phase of growth in those models was much greater, as it seemed to be in real-life where vaping really took hold (particularly England).

 

Heat-not-burn will probably not play out the same way. The first growth phase ought to be a lot bigger for reasons already noted. That, however, means that it will comprise a larger portion of the total potential market, reducing the potential size of the second fast growth phase before everyone who is a good candidate for switching has switched.

 

So, how many is that? And what happens after the second period of rapid growth? Will it be indefinite continuing inroads into the smoking market, or a hard ceiling?

 

That depends. Indeed, that is the answer to every other quantitative question you might be asking here (e.g., How big is each period of high growth? How long between the various phases?) Unfortunately, to answer any of those requires having great precision in model inputs. It is fairly clear that those modeling the market for heat-not-burn have no idea, as evidenced by the irrational spike in PMI’s market capitalization due to the iQOS’s early success in Japan, followed by a crash when investors discovered that the initial growth phase does not continue forever (a bit more about that here).

 

Switching patterns can vary wildly. For example, it took decades before smokers Norway, which shares a great deal of cultural influence with Sweden, started to switch to snus in droves. Why the delay? Snus has been popular and mainstream in Sweden for almost half a century and has long been more popular than smoking. But Norway only saw a major shift a few years ago. Meanwhile, Finland and Denmark, where the influence might acted sooner, were hobbled by the European Union ban on snus (Sweden has an exemption and Norway is not in the EU), which is one of a whole different set of policy variables.

 

Still, it seems safe to draw a few conclusions. Japan was probably the best-case-scenario for pent-up demand for heat-not-burn. Smoking is popular among relatively well-educated and well-off people who are strong candidates for switching. Adding a bit of tech gadgetry to a stick is not exactly going to be seen as odd in such a tech-forward population. Meanwhile, e-cigarettes are banned and snus was always a cultural non-starter. In a population where e-cigarettes have already grown in popularity there is less pent-up demand. Some vapers might switch, of course, but most have settled in to what they do. Thus, we will probably not see as bit an initial growth phase for heat-not-burn sales in new markets.

 

However, it seems likely that there is a much higher ceiling for uptake compared to e-cigarettes, because heat-not-burn better checks all of the boxes. This is not based on any modeling, but rather is the type of observation that is needed as an input into the modeling. It is possible that a large fraction of smokers in some countries could switch over the course of five or ten years.

 

However, both heat-not-burn and e-cigarettes fail to check one of the boxes in most of the world: These tech products are only price competitive because of the high prices for cigarettes in rich countries (which include high taxes, which have usually been lower for low-risk products in markets where they took off). Cigarettes are a simple product whose price reflects the local cost-of-living like food prices do, and the same is true for smokeless tobacco. But high tech imports will have prices that reflect their higher real resource costs and the higher costs of doing business where they are made. Thus, the idea of migrating more than a small fraction of the world’s smokers to heat-not-burn seems like fantasy for the foreseeable future.

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iQOS vs Glo – Which Is Better?

iQOS vs Glo

If you’ve been following this blog you’ll know that the Heat not Burn UK team have managed to get our hands on a few devices over the last year. This is pretty exciting, because it shows that manufacturers are taking heated tobacco seriously and trying to build a presence in the market. We’ve tried products from Chinese e-cig companies, and the very impressive Lil from KT&G. Right now we have three more HnB products on their way to us, so the reviews are going to keep on coming. As far as we can tell we already have more HnB reviews than any other English speaking website, and we plan to keep it that way. Read on for our comprehensive iQOS vs Glo comparison.

Being realistic, though, right now two products dominate the HnB market. The punchy new challenger is BAT’s Glo, which we first tested last year and is rolling out across European markets over the next few months. It’s going head to head with Philip Morris’s iQOS, which already holds nearly 15% of the Japanese tobacco market and is the leading product globally.

We’re pretty familiar with both these devices, especially iQOS, but we haven’t talked about them in detail for a while. Now might be a good time to do that, though. Soon they’ll be sitting side by side on shelves across Europe, and millions of people will be wondering which one they should buy. We think we have an answer to that question, so if you want to know what we think, read on!

The Basics

iQOS and Glo both work on the same principle – they generate vapour by heating a stick of processed tobacco, which is inserted into the device. The advantages of this system are that it’s easy to use, easy to clean and the sticks can have a filter that exactly mimics the feel of a cigarette. There are a few differences between them, though. BAT and PMI have taken different approaches to turning the principle into a usable device, and each of them has its plus and minus points.

Shape and size

One look at an iQOS and it’s obvious that PMI put a lot of effort into getting the device as close to the shape and size of a cigarette as possible. It’s still bigger and heavier, but it’s definitely in the right ball park – the iQOS is roughly the size of a smallish cigar, and it’s not too heavy either. I wouldn’t walk around with one hanging out of my mouth, but you can hold it like a cigarette. That’s a big plus for anyone who’s recently switched from smoking, because it makes for a very familiar experience. Of course, making the device so small means compromises, and what’s suffered here is battery capacity. PMI have handled this by providing a very neat portable charging case (PCC), which both tops up the internal battery and protects the iQOS when it’s not in use.

BAT didn’t even try to make Glo resemble a cigarette. Instead they came up with something that resembles a small, very simple box mod. There’s no way you can hold a Glo the same way as a cigarette, which reduces the familiarity a bit. On the other hand it’s still small and light enough to be used comfortably by anyone. The format BAT have chosen does offer one big advantage – there’s plenty room to pack a high-capacity 18650 battery inside.

Overall, though, iQOS wins this round. The actual device is so small and sleek it’s practically unbeatable.

Ease of use

Both devices are as easy to use as it gets. You put a stick in the chamber, press the button, let it heat up, then puff away. They’re also designed to be easily cleaned. So a dead heat on ease of use.

Battery capacity

There’s no getting away from the fact that the iQOS has a small battery. Realistically, you need to put it back in the PCC for a recharge between sticks. It’s not a big deal, because the PCC holds enough power to keep you going all day, but if you’re having a good time at the pub and want to vape three or four Heets in quick succession you’re going to run into problems. PMI were forced to choose between compactness and battery capacity, and they went for compactness.

BAT, obviously, went for battery capacity. I was very impressed when I tested the Glo, because after getting through a full pack of 20 NeoStiks the battery still had half its charge left. You’ll have no problem at all getting a full day’s use from a Glo.

So, on battery capacity there’s really no contest. Glo wins this one hands down.

Vape Quality

Of course, everything else takes second place to the experience of actually vaping the thing. HnB devices are designed to deliver a satisfying vapour that tastes like a cigarette and gives enough nicotine to drive off the cravings, and iQOS does that very well indeed. I’ve talked about my initial doubts before, but once I got my hands on some amber Heets I was very pleased with the vapour I got.

I also liked the vapour from the Glo, but as I said at the time it wasn’t quite as satisfying as the iQOS. I still think that’s because it runs at a significantly lower temperature. I also still think it’s a great device and is going to be satisfying enough for most smokers; the iQOS just has a slight but noticeable edge over it, especially in the density of the vapour.

So, on vape quality, the iQOS wins. This is a pretty subjective thing, of course. I switched to West Red because Marlboro Red were starting to taste weak and bland to me, so I might not be totally representative. If you smoke Silk Cut you might prefer the Glo. But, for me, iQOS is definitely the leader here.

Our Conclusion

iQOS and Glo are both great devices, and they both have their own strengths. The Glo’s main strength – its great battery life – is going to tip the balance for a lot of people, and I understand exactly why it will. On balance, though, the iQOS has enough of an edge in enough departments that, in our opinion, it’s the better choice. That could change as other devices become available (if KT&G decide to sell the Lil 2 globally PMI could have a real fight on their hands) but, for now, iQOS is the winner.

If you are thinking of making the switch then we have an amazing offer on at the moment and that is a complete brand new iQOS starter kit complete with 60 HEETS (so everything you need to get started) for only £49. Click HERE to make the switch to a new you today!

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