There is a lot of different opinions about cig-alikes in the vaping community. Some say their performance is so bad that they will disappear from the market as people discover better performing devices, some use them as an "out-and-about-device" in combination with other, bigger devices or mods, while others again find them good enough and use them exclusively. When I ask experienced vapers what they recommend to smokers that wants to try vaping, the most common answer is that they wouldn't recommend a cig-alike, but rather an eGo and some kind of clearomizer. Some even get at bit angry if I mention a cig-alike. However if I ask smokers what they think would enable them to make the switch, I usually get the impression that the closer they get to a real cigarette, the better.
Personally I don't use cig-alikes. I have some high end mods and genesis atomizers that I use most of the time, and an Aspire Mini BDC (read my review here: http://goo.gl/Dia3dB) that I use when I'm out doing stuff where I need a light weight leak-proof system. I must admit it's been a while since I tried a cig-alike, but I'm so happy with the performance of the equipment I use that I think I would be very disappointed if I tried one now. But when I started out, I was also one of those people who wanted something that felt and tasted as close to a real cigarette as possible. I wanted the device to look like a cigarette, and I wanted it to taste like a cigarette, but I quickly discovered that if I wanted the taste, I had to go to bigger devices that looked nothing like a cigarette. It was almost like the less the device looked like a cigarette, the better it tasted. Today, 2 and a half year later, I only have one of my atties filled with some kind of tobacco flavour. So do I think the cig-alikes will die and disappear from the market, outperformed by 2nd generation devices and mods?
The short answer to that question is no. I started my vaping career with a cig-alike, and I do believe a lot of smokers will do the same in the future. I've written earlier about what I think makes vaping so successful, and one of the things is that it lets you keep the ritual of smoking. For some people, the look, feel and the way they use their device is a very important part of this ritual and they don't feel that it's the same if they have to push a button to fire their big-ass mod. So they continue with the cig-alikes for quite a while. Others, like myself, are happy to replace this part of the ritual, chasing after the best taste and biggest clouds of vapour. People are different. And that the main reasons I think cig-alikes will live on, and co-exist with more advanced devices.
Big tobacco seems to have a lot of faith in the cig-alikes and are investing heavily in them, and of course it is in their interest that vapers continue to use the them for as long as possible. To do this they can play on the advantages that the cig-alike has over the other devices, mainly size, price and the fact that they let their users keep a ritual that is very close to their beloved smoking ritual. However, as I indicated above, for a lot of vapers (I'd say most) the superior taste and performance of bigger devices eventually will become more important and they will move on. I'm not sure it's possible to get a cig-alike to perform nearly as well as some of the mods out there today, at least not without loosing the price advantage. However I do think there is a lot of potential for innovation in the cig-alike segment as well. And hopefully we will see a lot of exiting stuff in the years to come, if regulations don't kill the competition. Imagine a variable voltage/watt cig-alike connected to your phone with bluetooth and a fancy app monitoring health and economic benefits compared to smoking. It's definitely possible, and we're already seeing some devices that can connect to your phone.
To sum up, I think the cig-alikes are here to stay and I think they will evolve and get better, but I also think the pace of innovation in the segment depends a lot on how vaping end up being regulated. If innovation is stimulated through competition I think quite a few vapers will be happy with the cig-alikes as their main device in the future. And I think we will be both surprised and amazed by what they come up with. What do you think? Please leave a comment to let us all know.
photo credit: lindsay-fox via photopin cc