Liam Humberstone reveals what went in to perfecting the byte e-cigarette
The byte vape pod marks brand new territory for Totally Wicked. It’s the first pre-filled pod system for Totally Wicked to bring to market but there’s a lot more to it than that. To help you gain an insight into the product, we sat down with Totally Wicked Technical Director and IBVTA board member, Liam Humberstone.
Can you tell us about the byte?
The Totally Wicked byte is the first genuinely different thing from Totally Wicked, probably in as long as I’ve worked for the business and it’s something we have steered clear of for a long time.
We’ve now reached a point where we’re thinking, all the people who have taken up vaping easily have done so and all of the people who tried vaping and are thinking it’s too difficult and haven’t gone back. They need access to good, easy to use products, but the emphasis on the good has been missing everywhere up to now.
We know that big tobacco businesses have had their pod devices, so we thought it was about time that Totally Wicked had an offering in this market area. Anyone who wants to pick up an e-cigarette, anyone who thinks I would like to stop smoking but I need it to be as easy as opening a packet of cigarettes and lighting a cigarette, we think those people need access to a Totally Wicked product.
So, some time back we started work on the byte which is exactly that product. It’s just a very simple battery and a pre-filled pod.
I hope we have done something that is really in the interest of consumer convenience and really good product quality. As this product starts to roll out into our various routes to market I hope that people are going to really enjoy it.
What makes it different to other pod e-cigs?
The Totally Wicked byte battery is fairly similar to any others. We have kept it at a reasonable price, it’s an automatic draw, so there are no buttons to press. I think it’s a great looking device – I’m not sure that anyone else has done anything quite as lovely, but then I would say that wouldn’t I?
But the thing that makes it really different is the fluid and the pod itself. The fluid has been specially developed for this product. It will be available separately in the Switz Smooth range, but it was created for the byte and we had to make the fluid and the pod so they worked with one another, so there was a lot of parallel development.
The thing that makes it really different is that the byte pod has a thing called a ripcord and from a customer’s point of view, how much do you need to think about it? Not very much. Before you start using it, you won’t be able to take a draw on it because it has a piece of silicone poking out of the air hole – that is the ripcord.
When you want to start using your byte pod, you just pull the ripcord until it breaks, then wait for three minutes because it needs to prime itself. The device is then ready to use.
Actually, there is something more cunning going on inside the pod. The difficulty with most pod devices is they tend to leak in transport or in storage and the e-liquid can go off because the air has access to the e-liquid.
The pod system in the byte is really clever. We we are calling it ESP technology, E-liquid Sealed and Protected and to give you a rough idea what’s going on with this. Inside the pod, the atomizer head as supplied is completely covered by silicone. When the ripcord is pulled, the atomizer head becomes exposed, the ripcord tears off and the airhole is opened. When the ripcord is torn off, e-liquid is exposed to the atomizer head, the e-liquid can then start to flow – that’s why you have to wait three minutes before you vape it.
But we’ve then got something that keeps the e-liquid fresh – its properly sealed the same way as it would be in a bottle and it means that the atomizer head is not getting soaked and flooded all the time the device is in transit, that makes a really big difference.
It has presented some massive technical challenges to the development team we have been working with on, but I’m pleased with what we’ve ended up with because it’s an absolutely great e-cigarette. The fact that it’s a prefilled pod is not even withstanding within the whole of this, it is just a great e-cigarette.
Why did we decide to go with a completely new e-liquid formulation?
We had to go with a new e-liquid formulation because we wanted something that would work for everyone, but particularly for people who are taking up their first e-cigarette. When most people vape their first e-cigarette, they will cough, and I’m conscious that a lot of people say:
“Do you know what, I’ve tried e-cigarettes but I just can’t get through that first couple of days where every time I take a drag I cough.”
I’ll admit, I struggled to get through that myself years ago. I felt that was a little bit of a barrier.
What we had to do was start working on a new formulation and we started on it quite a long time ago. The formulation is designed to help people to not cough, but we also needed to have just enough throat hit in it that people knew how much they were vaping when they used it. We found when we were testing with so-called salt e-liquid formulations, that it was very easy to give yourself more of a nicotine dose than you intended to take.
So, we have worked on an e-liquid that allows you to not cough, but at the same time have some idea from the feeling of vaping how much nicotine you are getting, it’s referred to as self-titration and what we wanted was something that was based around a salt type formulation but allowed people to still self-titrate and we are really happy with that we’ve ended up with.
How much time has been spent perfecting the byte for smokers?
Nearly all of the focus has been working around getting something that will work for smokers. We hope that it will make a real difference to the uptake of e-cigarettes because not enough people are turning over to them at the moment.
The e-liquid itself we actually started in the summer of 2017 and we’ve spent a long time working through that. The e-liquid development at the time was not for a pre-filled pod device, it was just to work on those types of formulations.
We started the pod device in July 2018 and throughout that time we have been working on developing this concept so it works perfectly. Even up to just before Christmas 2018 we were still making changes to the byte to make sure it was absolutely the right product.
What are three pieces of advice that you would give to someone who has just bought their first byte?
I guess the first one is, wait three minutes after you have pulled the ripcord before you start vaping.
Piece of advice two, if you are trying to substitute vaping for smoking, it’s not easy. It’s much, much easier than any other way of quitting smoking that I have ever come across, we are not allowed to say that you can use this as a nicotine replacement therapy product, but I did. That’s exactly what I used it [e-cigarettes] for, but it wasn’t easy and the best advice I got is, don’t beat yourself up and that really helped.
I think I’m over seven years clear now, I hope this is going to make it so much easier for all of those people, but piece of advice number two, don’t beat yourself up.
Third piece of advice, don’t think you are going to use the byte forever. The byte is a lot cheaper than smoking, half to price as smoking regular cigarettes, but it’s probably twice as expensive as buying bottles of e-liquid and a really good e-cigarette, so don’t intend to use it forever.
Use the byte for as long as you need to but at the same time, go down to your local vape shop, go and find yourself an e-cigarette that works for you and buy bottles of e-liquid because it is a much more cost-effective solution.
I think the byte probably works out for most people about half the price of smoking, vaping can be around half the price of that again if you want it to. So, get a full e-cig.
If you’re a smoker who is looking to make the switch to vaping then visit our New to Vaping page for more information