Over the last couple of years, pod vapes have really gained a foot-hold in the vaping industry. In fact, it’s fair to say they’ve exploded onto the scene. Their popularity has increased 1000 fold and they’ve found a perfect niche in-between vape pens (starter kits) and full blown high power box mods.
As recently as 2 or so years ago, there were only a handful of pod vapes you could buy. These tended to be pretty simple devices with limited (fixed) power, small/low capacity batteries and a small e-liquid capacity.
Nowadays, virtually every manufacturer has a range of pod vapes available. More often than not, you’ll find there are more pod vapes on offer than there are box mods.
I will be honest, I was skeptical at first when they started to gain traction, as I saw it as a step backwards. I was well into my box mods/ mechanical mods and tanks and really enjoyed the interchangeability between the two and the level of functions these had.
What I overlooked was box mods were becoming more and more advanced with insane power levels and dual/triple batteries. While this excited us experienced vapers, it made it difficult for the novice vapers – those starting their vaping journey.
This is where pod vapes targeted their market and have since developed and are being used by first time vapers and experienced vapers alike.
The whole pod vape scene is becoming a bit of a grey area now as some of the latest releases are very reminiscent of advanced box mods BUT with one big difference.
Mods and tanks are interchangeable, they can be bought separately. You can fit most tanks on most mods due to the connection between them, this being a 510 threaded connector.
Pod vapes on the other hand are limited to the pod only fitting with the corresponding housing. They are not interchangeable. The pod is designed specifically for the pod mod it’s sold with, hence they are sold as kits.
As you can see from the photos above, the tank screws into the top of the mod by means of their 510 threaded connector. Alternatively the pod is magnetically secured into the recessed part of the pod housing, therefore one design won’t fit another.
Read on and find out just what it’s all about.
What is a Pod Vape?
This is actually quite difficult to explain as the evolution of the pod vape, even over a very short period of time, has evolved beyond recognition from the earlier or basic forms of pod systems. Both are still very commonly used and it all depends on how you wish to vape.
Some people simply want to pick up a pod vape and not have to worry about wattage or even worry about filling the pod with e-juice. Other folks like to fiddle and adjust their settings to achieve that ultimate vape. Either way, there’s a pod vape that caters for your exact needs.
Before we go into the detail and specifics of the pod vape kits, to stop any confusion, it’s best to explain the terminology of the individual components. The pod vape kit can be broken down into two parts.
The battery is the power that supplies the energy, in our terms the voltage, to the coil that’s located in the pod. This voltage that’s applied to the coil will heat up the resistance wire in the coil and vaporizes the e-liquid in the pod.
Batteries are either internal non replaceable batteries, sealed in the housing part of the pod vape, or external replaceable batteries. Both have their pros and cons and it really boils down to user preference.
The battery is located in the main body together with any control function it may have. In our direct comparison to a mod and tank, this part of the pod vape is what we would commonly call a mod.
The pod is the detachable part that fits and is secured into the main body by magnets. This pod incorporates a coil, wick of some nature that surrounds the coil, a reservoir to hold e-liquid and a mouth-piece.
When the main body i.e. the battery, applies voltage to the pod, the coil energizes and vaporises the e-liquid. In our direct comparison to a mod and tank, this part of the pod vape is what we would commonly call a tank.
Although when most people talk about pods or pod vapes, they’re referring to the whole device – the battery/main body and the pod itself.
The Pod Vape
The earlier pod vapes, or I should say the more basic pod vapes, consist of the battery housing (typically a 500mAh internal battery) and a sealed pod cartridge that slots into the housing. This forms the pod vape kit.
This to me is the main limitation of the earlier pod vape kits. The battery was small, anywhere between 500mAh to 1000mAh, and would only last a few hours before it needed charging.
Secondly, the sealed pod which contains the coil and a small reservoir of flavored e-juice didn’t last long at all! Once you’d vaped the e-juice and it was finished, you throw the pod away and replace with a new one.
There is no functionality, no control, no variation, you simply draw on the pod and vape. These really were just one step up from a disposable or pen style device. The main difference from a disposable was you could charge the battery.
As the vape pods became more popular, their design and functionality advanced.
The internal battery started to increase in terms of a higher capacity, meaning it would last longer between charges. Typically we now see pods with 1500mAh capacity or more. In line with the traditional mods, pod vapes are now incorporating external 18650 batteries, improving the capacity and longevity of the device even more.
More advanced chip sets were added, enabling variable wattage control and OLED displays indicating the status of the battery, vape time, coil resistance and power levels.
Re-fillable pods with increased e-juice capacity and replaceable plug and play (PnP) coils were introduced offering different vaping styles. These two styles are known as mouth-to lung (MTL) and direct-to-lung (DTL) vaping. Even variable air flow control is now becoming common place on a pod vape. Interestingly, we’re even seeing re-buildable pod options to cater for those wishing to make their own coils.
These functions were common place on the majority of mods on the market but have since been added to the pod vape systems. The less advanced pod vapes tend to be referred to as a pod, where the more advanced pod vapes are being referred to as pod mods.
Draw Activated Vs Button Activated
Some of the earlier or more basic pod vape systems were draw activated. This meant there was no fire button to press to start vaping. You simply put the pod to your mouth and when you draw on the pod it activates and vaporizes the e-juice.
Unfortunately not all the pod vapes worked as well as others using this method of vaping. Depending on your vaping style, some required quite a hard draw to activate. Also the intensity of the vape was not always constant.
Certainly in my experience I found I would have to change my style of vaping from mouth-to-lung to direct-to-lung to get a decent draw off the pod.
Some pod vape systems include both draw and button activation leaving it down to the user to choose how they wish to vape.
Open and Closed Pods
There are two types of pods available, commonly referred to as open and closed pod systems.
Closed Pod Systems
This is a sealed pod that you buy with pre-filled e-juice. You’re limited to the flavors and strength of e-juice that are available for that particular pod device.
Once you’ve vaped it and the pod is empty, you throw it away and fit another pre-filled pod. They are NOT re-fillable. You’re also throwing the coil that’s in the pod away too. Most closed pod systems will only hold 1-2ml of e-juice so they won’t last long. Definitely a pretty expensive way to vape.
Open Pod Systems
The same design of pod for that particular device BUT they’re re-fillable. A small removable silicone bung allows you to fill the pod with your e-juice. Normally bought as a pack of 3 but instead of being pre-filled come empty. You then fill these pods up when required with the flavor of your choice.
You’re NOT limited to the flavors that particular manufacturer is selling. Each pod is normally good for approximately 8 fills before the coil in that pod becomes degraded and not usable, i.e. the flavor or vapor performance falls off.
Again, when the pod became unusable, the pod is thrown away. What we are seeing in the more advanced and latest pod vape devices are open pod type systems even though they don’t always state this in the specifications.
The latest line of pod vapes are all re-fillable, all have replacement plug and play coils so the pod itself is very similar to the vape tank, with the exclusion of a 510 thread.
Definitely a more cost effective way to vape!
Mouth-To-Lung (MTL) / Direct-To-Lung (DTL)
Most pod vapes, because of the higher resistance coils and lower wattage, were designed to simulate a Mouth-To-Lung (MTL) style draw. This closely mimics the style we all used when smoking a cigarette. A typical MTL set-up uses a coil resistance of 1 ohm or higher with a wattage of around 10W.
This style of vaping is when you draw on your vape device, you take the vapor into your mouth first, then inhale that vapor into your lungs.
Alternatively, Direct-To-Lung (DTL) vaping will be achieved with a lower resistance coil and using higher wattage. Coil resistance would be around 0.8 ohms or lower with a variable wattage of 15W or higher.
This style of vaping is when you draw on your vape device and inhale the vapor direct into your lungs.
While the majority of pod vapes are MTL, some manufacturers are now including a range of different coils to cater for both styles of vaping. Obviously to vape DTL, your vape pod kit will need to have variable wattage and accept coils designed for DTL.
Some of the more basic pod vape systems have a fixed wattage output. The power derived from the battery and the resistance of coil they’re using determines the wattage output and is not adjustable.
Typically, these fixed wattage pod vape systems will provide around 10 watts of power and give a pretty reasonable vape and nice flavor from the integrated coil in the pod.
As the pod vapes increased in design and functionality, variable wattage was included on the medium to more advanced pod systems. Some of the more basic pod vape systems would include 3 fixed output settings, selectable by the fire button.
It’s common now to see pod vapes that include variable wattage adjustment, anywhere from 5 watts through to 80 watts, controlled via on-board chip sets and visible by the OLED screen display. Those pod vape systems that include variable wattage adjustment do tend to be the more advanced systems, especially the ones that include PnP coils. This means you can tailor your vape experience to whatever coil you have in the pod.
Nicotine Salts Vs Freebase
Freebase nicotine is the type of nicotine we all used in our mods to give us that nicotine hit we craved for. Vaping with low resistance coils and higher wattage using 6mg/9mg/12mg strength or higher gave us that perfect hit.
Now because pod vapes traditionally use lower wattage and higher resistance coils, using this freebase nicotine at these strengths were found to not give us that satisfying nicotine hit.
The way round this, especially for new vapers, was to use nicotine salts (Nic Salts). This allowed vapers to use higher mg strength nicotine, 18mg or higher to satisfy their craving without getting that harshness in your throat.
While we’ve only touched on nic salts in this guide, we have written a guide on What Are Nicotine Salts which you may find helpful.
Internal or External Battery
Up until recently, most pod vape systems had internal batteries. These varied anywhere between 500mAh through to 2000mAh. Obviously the higher mAh rating of the battery, the longer that battery would last between charges.
As standard, pod vapes all had micro USB charging ports on them, meaning the pod vape could be re-charged within an hour or so. Normally the pod vape would have a LED indication on them to indicate when the battery required re-charging. The more advanced pod vape devices, those having an OLED display, would show the status of the battery charge.
Some of the newer pod vape kits are using the newly developed Type C USB charging circuits meaning an even quicker charging time (2A) is available. This means if your internal battery has a capacity of 2000mAh, it will fully charge around the time of 80 minutes.
The next generation of pod vapes, sometimes referred to as pod mods, now come with external batteries. Sometimes manufactures will have two variants of the same pod mod, one powered by an internal battery and one with an external battery. A typical example of this is highlighted below.
Most commonly, the 18650 battery is the type manufacturers are using due to its size and performance. Some are now beginning to use the bigger, more powerful 21700 battery, increasing the vape time before re-charging.
Where it was pretty common for dual battery, even triple battery mods being available for high power vapers, the majority of pod vapes are powered by an internal or a single external battery.
Plug and Play (PnP) Coils
Unlike the earlier types, or entry level pod vapes that come with fixed coils in the pod, the evolution to more advanced pod mods saw the introduction of replaceable PnP coils being used.
Similar to replacing a coil in a clearomizer or tank, the same principle applies to the pods. When the coil starts to drop-off in performance and flavor or the coil burns giving that dry hit / Burnt taste, the coil is replaced in the pod.
The pod is simply detached from the battery housing giving access to the coil. This coil is then pulled from the pod, discarded and a new coil fitted.
PnP coils are slightly different from the standard clearomizer/tank coils in that they are not screwed into the tank. The PnP coils are a push fit type, relying on the O-ring seals to hold the coil in place.
Rebuildable Coils and Pods
Just like a Re-Buildable Atomizer (RBA) or a Rebuildable Tank Atomizer (RTA) in a mod/tank system, some pods now include these as an additional accessory.
Two variants currently available are the re-buildable coil (RBA) which is identical to the PnP coil but its outer casing is unscrewed to give access to the build posts and deck. You would wind your own coil and install onto the build deck, wick the coil and screw the outer casing back on and push the coil into the pod.
Be prepared to have a magnifying glass at hand as they’re very small and fitting the coil is very fiddly.
The second variant is a complete re-buildable pod. The buildable deck is incorporated into the pod which is bigger than the RBA coil type. This at least gives you a little more room in order to build your own coil.
In this case, you would remove the existing pod and replace with the re-buildable pod. Simply unscrew the top section, wrap your coil and secure into the build deck. Once dry burned, wick the coil and fill with your e-liquid. Replace your top cap and vape away.
This type of design is basically the same design as a Rebuildable Tank Atomizer (RTA).
Difference Between a Pod Mod and a Box Mod
As you can now see, there are many variants of pod vape systems from very basic to very advanced. The functionality of an advanced pod vape (or pod mod as they’re commonly called) really is very similar to that of an advanced mod.
With regards to variable power, battery capacity, airflow, coil options, screen displays, re-buildable coils, e-juice flavor and vapor production, the two are very similar.
The big difference between the two is in the design.
As previously mentioned, a mod and tank are interchangeable. The way the two are connected together is via a 510 threaded connector. This is an industry standard and used on all mods. Each mod will have a female threaded 510 connector and each clearomizer/tank will have a threaded male 510 connector at its base. There are slight variations to these but in general this is how they connect together.
With pod vapes, the mod section (the battery housing) will only fit with its corresponding vape pod. The two are not interchangeable. The pod is attached to the pod vape housing by magnets. If the mod section fails, the pods can no longer be used. Equally, you can’t use another pod on another pod vape device. When buying a pod vape, they are always bought as a kit.
Also the mouth piece (drip tip) is integrated into the pod, it’s part of the pod design. On a standard clearomizer/tank, you can customize and replace the drip tip with different designs.
Lastly, the e-juice PG/VG ratios and the strength of nicotine do tend to be different between the two devices. Because of the coils and wicking in the pod vape systems, especially the earlier or less advanced ones, the PG/VG ratio of e-juice needs to be around 50/50. A higher ratio of VG won’t saturate the wick and could cause dry hits.
Equally, the power level on some of the earlier or less advanced pod vapes is pretty small, therefore a higher nicotine level in the e-juice would be needed to satisfy nicotine cravings. Because of this, Nicotine Salts (Nic Salts) are the perfect option for these devices. You can increase the nicotine level in the e-juice without giving you the harshness in your throat.
Some manufactures will specify their pod vape systems are perfectly suited for 20mg/ml nic salts. There are a few of the fixed wattage pod vapes I’ve tried with freebase nic and they don’t satisfy the craving, whereas switching to nic salts really does help.
Recently to hit the market is the introduction of some pod vape devices that include an optional accessory to allow a 510 threaded tank to be fitted to the vape pod battery.
This really opens up the possibilities of making the pod vape battery section so much more versatile. Rather than being limited to using just the specific pods for your particular device, you can fit your existing clearomizer or tank, even RTAs to your pod vape battery.
The design of these 510 adaptors is simply a pod that fits magnetically into the main housing and instead of it having the coil and reservoir, it has a 510 connector located in its top.
One example of this is the Voopoo Drag X and Drag S pod mods. No doubt this will become a common accessory found on many pod vapes in the coming year.
Who Would Use A Pod Vape?
Because of their simplicity, pod vapes are ideally suited for the novice/new vaper, or someone switching from smoking to vaping. They’re relatively cheap to buy and don’t really require any prior knowledge to set up and vape. Pod vape kits are often small, discreet devices and closely mimic the style of smoking.
As the development of pod vapes has advanced, their functionality, capacity and power has increased. Because of this, more and more existing vapers are including pod vapes as part of their daily vaping kit.
I have around 20 different pod vape systems and the flavor and vapor I get from some of these really does exceed that of some of my mods and tanks.
To this end, it’s fair to say that pod vapes, although originally targeted to the novice vaper, are used by beginners and experienced vapers alike.
I’ve certainly observed now when browsing through a website to treat myself to a new device, there seem to be far more pod vape options than there are mod kits. The popularity of pod vape kits really has exploded.
What Type Of E-Liquid Should You Use?
As we’ve already mentioned, nic salts are preferable when using the lower powered pod vapes to give us that nicotine hit. This is simply because vaping at a lower wattage on a pod vape using nic salts of 18mg strength or higher would give us a similar hit as vaping 6mg freebase nicotine in a sub ohm tank on a mod.
Equally the ratio of PG to VG in our e-liquid is also important when considering what’s required when using either a clearomizer/tank or a pod vape.
It’s common to use a ratio of 30% PG and 70% VG in the majority of clearomizers/tanks, whereas a ratio of 50% PG and 50% VG would be used in a pod.
This is simply due to the viscosity of VG. In basic terms, PG is a runnier liquid and will carry the flavor easier and provides that throat hit we like. VG is a thicker liquid and will produce the thick dense clouds of vapor. A combination of the two base liquids provides that perfect vape.
Because pod vapes have smaller wicking ports, a runnier e-liquid is needed to saturate the wick and avoid dry hits. Anything higher than 50% VG could make your e-liquid too thick and not saturate the wick quickly enough during vaping.
As coils in pods are improving in design, this ratio of PG/VG is widening. It’s always best to stick with a ratio of 50/50 to start with and tweak to suit your requirements. Just take into account, if you start to get dry hits, look at the ratio of the e-liquid you’re using.
As you can see, the evolution of the pod vape has greatly increased since its introduction. These earlier or more basic types are still commonly used and are likely to be ideal for the novice or new vaper. The more advanced pod vapes are so in line with the mod/tank set up now, they have something to offer every vaper.