It's the question a friend of mine asked me just the other day. He'd accidentally pressed a button combination that had put his e-cigarette 'starter kit' into a different mode and to quote him “wasn't vaping right.”
It's a valid question too. Smoking was simple, he pulled one cigarette out the packet and lit it. Now he has menus to navigate and settings to adjust, vape coils to prime, e-cigarette tanks to fill, batteries to charge, etc. I can feel his frustration down the phone, he only switched to vaping a couple of months back and I don't want him to start smoking again, so I offer to go over and sort it out for him. His mod isn't one I recommended to him, it's one he chose because he liked how it looked. Unfortunately, the operating system isn't intuitive, and it even took me a while, armed with the manual and Google, to figure out what he'd done and how to get it back to normal for him. Another example I saw recently was a new vaper who had posted a question on a forum asking “The manual tells me how to change to all the settings and modes, but I have no idea what those settings and modes do or how I should be using them” which again, is not a stupid question. If a manual, simply says “adjust the temperature coefficient of resistance with the up and down buttons” it really isn't much help.
This started me thinking about why some vaping devices are so complicated, if any of it is really necessary, and if there really is much demand for all these features and functions. Should people need an electrical engineering degree to be able to stop smoking successfully? Should any vaping device sold in a high street shop need a manual? I think it's fair to say that for a while there was a severe lack of focus from the industry on smokers, who are of course going to be the next new vapers. Without e-cigarette products that will appeal and work for them, growth will always be limited. If my friend didn't have me to call on, he probably would have gone to the shop, bought cigarettes, and decided that vaping was just too much hassle to bother with. That's a potential loyal customer for that brand lost and another friend of mine back on the cigarettes, which just isn't good enough for me.
It seems to me that the vaping industry is still trying to find its feet much of the time. Manufacturers are testing the market every month with new products with new features. Variable power and variable airflow seemed like two standard features that were here to stay but lately we've seen products such as tanks without airflow adjustment, all in one device with fixed wattage, pod systems without either. Several manufacturers are now promoting simplicity as a unique selling point, which is really interesting. Whether it's consumers driving changes or the manufacturers I'm not sure, it's probably a bit of both, but things have been a bit different in the last 6 months. There's been a lot of new, very simple to use e-cigarettes, compact AIO devices, pod systems and mods that have been stripped back down to the basics. There's also been excellent tanks with very simple to change coils that just push in. It seems that some of the bigger manufacturers are starting to realise that what a lot of people want, and quite frankly need, is something that's straight forward and doesn't need you to read a 10-page manual to be able to use it.
A year ago, manufacturers were covering mods with flashing disco lights and bringing a device to the market without temperature control, power curves and all manner of other features, would have been almost unthinkable, regardless of the fact that the majority of vapers don't ever use them. There's a very fine line between useful features and pointless gimmicks. Manufacturers have been guilty of the latter more times that they would probably like to admit. It's always baffled me why certain sections of the industry seemed to be obsessed with putting coloured LED's all over their mods, and even tanks, but never thought to just add a bright, high powered, white LED in the bottom of a mod for people to use as a handy torch. I know which I would find a more attractive and useful feature.
Some vapers will see the simplification of vaping as 'dumbing down' and as a negative, they will bemoan what they see as a lack of new vaping gear for enthusiasts and hobbyists. Those types of devices still exist and will always have a market, but I think that market is getting smaller and China, the biggest manufacturer of vaping products, is realising where they can make the most money. In mainstream products, sold in mainstream outlets and used by average people. Vaping cannot survive as a niche product, it needs to be a product anyone can pick up and use.
In conclusion, e-cigarettes don't need to be complicated and I'm starting to feel that they can be detrimental to vaping as a whole if they are. I also think that vaping is going through a period of change again, like it has done many times before, but I feel that this time the industry is starting to head in the right direction for most people. I've seen several devices lately that are IP67 shockproof, waterproof and dustproof, which is a far more useful set of features to me than changeable screen logos or whatever other gimmicky feature you care to mention. I know that those gimmicks can be fun for the first few weeks you own a new bit of vape gear, but lets be honest, they don't improve the quality of the vape and after a short while most of us forget they are even there and we just pick up our mod in our usual mode and vape on it, without changing or adjusting anything. If only it was always that simple.