by: Nima Noori
Founder and CEO of TVape
February 7th, 2017
2016 was an exciting year for vaporizers, we saw releases from three of the leading manufacturers in the vaporizer industry and a trend towards smaller more portable units. But another trend that seems to be on the rise, especially with high-end vaporizers, is the inclusion of Bluetooth technology.
According to a Google Micro-Moments Guide nearly 87% of people always have their phone at their side, so it makes sense why manufacturers would start to explore this avenue.
Some of the most sought after vaporizers, like the Crafty, DaVinci IQ, Firefly 2, and Pax 3, use Bluetooth functionality to pair with an app on your smartphone and allows you more control over temperature and other various settings.
While this sounds innovative and may be the next step in vaporizer technology, is it really a necessary feature? We were curious how vaporizer consumers perceive the usefulness of Bluetooth technology; is it something they consider when purchasing a unit? Or is it more of an afterthought when compared to other more prominent vaporizer features, like a digital display?
At the time of writing we received 500 responses from our customers weighing in on the Bluetooth boondoggle and the results were surprising. Customers were given Likert Scale statements in which we asked them to rate each statement as “Agree”, “Neutral”, or “Disagree”, the results can be found below:
Back To Basics
Most entry level vaporizers do not allow you to fully control your temperature but rather employ pre-set temperature ranges set by the manufacturer. One of the first questions we asked our consumers was whether or not these pre-set temperatures were enough to satisfy their vaporizing needs.
Surprisingly 51% of respondents said that pre-set temperatures were enough to satisfy them. While only 20% said pre-set temperatures were not enough. To be honest, this was really surprising to us, digital displays and precise temperature control seem to be big selling features for customers and something that manufacturers are always working to include.
But our results suggest that users generally seem to be content with only having pre-set temperatures at their disposal without much room for flexibility or setting a specific temperature. Perhaps the general public is not as picky as we supposed or people just prefer a more hassle-free experience, where the need to learn temperatures and settings is taken out of their hands.
Comments from our users seemed to share this thought process, “This (Bluetooth technology) seems like over engineering a product by adding technology that doesn’t really benefit the user in any specific way. Preset temps in the vape are easy and work fine.” (Respondent 17).
Considering units like the Zeus Smite, Arizer Solo, Arizer Air, and Utillian 720 are among the most popular vaporizers on our site, consumers, especially new users, seem to opt for a unit that is more simple and straightforward.
When eliminating pre-set temperatures from the equation and asking users straight up whether they would prefer just a digital display rather than just a Bluetooth app, a whopping 61% said they would rather a digital display, with only a meager 7% saying they would prefer Bluetooth connectivity.
It appears that a digital display like what is found on a unit like the Smite Plus is held in higher regard with consumers than only a Bluetooth app like how the Firefly 2 functions. The sentiment felt by most users can be summed up by Respondent 234 “In all honesty I still prefer on screen temperature control”.
When asked directly whether or not Bluetooth connectivity is a feature they look for when selecting a unit, only 6% said that they actively look for it, while 56% said that Bluetooth was not even on their radar. With many sharing the same statement that, “An app is a negative on a vaporizer; I would immediately rule out buying any vaporizer with an app.” (Respondent 84)
Considering all the top brands are pushing Bluetooth functionality, we find it interesting that this is not a feature that most users look for when selecting a unit. This data does not bode well for the Pax 3, which holds Bluetooth functionality as the main selling feature over the Pax 2. But with general consumers not interested in Bluetooth, we speculate that people will continue to select the Pax 2 over the Pax 3 because they do not see the value in the extra connectivity.
With all this information in mind, it appears users prefer units with pre-set temperatures first and foremost. Consumers also tend to favor digital displays as a useful feature over Bluetooth integration. It seems that current top tiered units may be a bit out of touch with the needs of the general consumer who feel that “Reliability, durability and ease of use rank way above connectivity in my world.” (Respondent 127), leaving the door open for a unit that performs well while remaining intuitive and easy to use.
Though consumers seem to not see much value in Bluetooth technology in vaporizers, manufacturers have created these apps with a purpose. For a unit like the Crafty, the Bluetooth app allows you to set both the base and boost temperatures to your own custom settings. It also allows the device to be used as a precise temperature vaporizer like the Mighty, giving you a bit of flexibility with how you interact with your unit.
The Pax 3 also uses the Bluetooth app to set custom temperatures and also allows you to change heating profiles which can drastically change your session (read our review for more).
So how do consumers feel about this type of functionality being at their disposal with a Bluetooth app? When asked about whether or not the ability to control temperature through Bluetooth is useful, 48% of respondents agreed that this would be a convenient feature, while 32% felt that this would not be useful.
It appears consumers seem to warm up to the idea of Bluetooth as long as it adds to the functionality of the device, as Respondent 384 remarks “Using Bluetooth to control and adjust precise temperatures would be nice to have.” However this was by no means a landslide decision and a third of consumers still felt that Bluetooth was unnecessary for these types of features.
But what about other features that could come along with Bluetooth functionality? The DaVinci IQ allows users to track their vaporizer usage, charting the time of their sessions and the temperatures that they vaped at. When asked if users felt a feature such as this was useful only 29% of people agreed that charting their vaping habits would be useful, commenting “Bluetooth is a great feature, having precision control and usage tracking would be the most important features for me.” (Respondent 33). While 45% had no interest in this feature.
It appears charting ones vaping habits takes a back seat to temperature control when it comes to Bluetooth integration. Far more people are interested in an app that allows you to customize temperatures or use their device as a precise temperature control vaporizer rather than an app that charts your usage. Many sharing the same views as Respondent 484 stating, “I like the idea of being able to customize settings and such through an app. I do not like the idea of my habits being recorded and sent to manufacturer or others.”
So now that we have some sense of how consumers feel towards added functionality in their vaporizers with Bluetooth, we decided to take it a step further asking them questions surrounding units that forced Bluetooth technology on them.
Units like the Firefly 2 require you to use a Bluetooth app in order to change temperatures or switch to “concentrates mode”. With this in mind, we asked consumers if they would buy a vaporizer that required a Bluetooth app.
Only 20% said they would purchase a unit where Bluetooth was required but as one respondent points out, this is conditional, “If a vaporizer REQUIRED a Bluetooth app I would still buy it if the balance of quality and price created enough value for me to put up with the fact that I am forced to use an app at all times.” (Respondent 389)
48%, almost half, of users said they would not buy a unit which forced them to use Bluetooth. Echoing sentiments like, “It would be a cool function as a resource but should not be relied upon solely for any function” (Respondent 405) and “Bluetooth apps are helpful with vapes and they add more refinement and control. But having the app be the only way to access core features is a poor choice.” (Respondent 150)
It would appear that consumers would like the choice to use Bluetooth rather than being forced to use the app for basic functionality. But what about if only some functions were accessed through Bluetooth and the rest were available on the device?
When asked users this question, a whopping 77% said they would be annoyed if certain features were only available through the app. With many sharing the same feelings about features locked to Bluetooth, “I think it is cool but should not have Bluetooth exclusive features. Having a Bluetooth remote for features you can also achieve on the device itself seems the best to me.” (Respondent 67)
This result is interesting when looking at a unit like the Pax 3, which as we touched upon, made their Bluetooth app the main feature over the Pax 2. The Pax 3 offers unique heating profiles that can only be set while using Bluetooth, while the rest of the functions remain in the device itself.
From our results, it would seem that most users would opt for a Pax 2 over the Pax 3 because the features are more readily available and not dependant on an app.
The Firefly 2 is an even tougher sell because all of its functionality lies within the app itself and without the app you are only locked into 1 temperature, which as we can see from our survey, will be frustrating for most users.
In contrast a unit like the Utillian 720 seems to thrive in these conditions, offering users functionality and control with a single button and without the need for an app.
A Matter of Privacy
When we first got the DaVinci IQ we were surprised to see that we were required to login with an e-mail in order to use the app. Why does a manufacturer need this basic information in order for me to access an app?
We asked our customers if they would use an app that required them to sign up with similar basic information. Only 18% of respondents agreed that they would use an app that required you to sign up with some basic info, leading us to believe our consumers value their private information. Many of our respondents seem to feel the same way, “For privacy reasons I do not think a Bluetooth app is for me.” (Respondent 102).
We decided to push a little further into this topic as user information could actually prove helpful to manufacturers when fixing bugs in their vaporizers. Essentially a manufacturer’s user-base could act as a bunch of beta testers, relaying information about errors to the manufacturer directly, which would allow them to fix these issues for later releases.
When we asked consumers if they would consent to having this data relayed anonymously to the manufacturer for the purpose of improving the device, only 27% said they would agree to this. While 52% of consumers said they would not consent to relaying this type of information.
It appears users are a bit skeptical sending their data, even anonymously, to the manufacturer, many of them stating, “I do not like the idea of my habits being recorded and sent to manufacturer or others. Maybe that’s useful to the manufacturer but feels like an invasion of my privacy.” (Respondent 52)
Perhaps people are concerned that this private information, even if it is anonymous, will be provided to 3rd party companies. We decided to ask how people felt about this directly and the results coincided with our previous inquiry about providing info to the manufacturer.
Only 19% said they would be fine if their user data and vaping habits were provided to 3rd party sources for the purpose of research and development. And 62% said that they would not consent to having their information shared with third parties. Many users felt similar to Respondent 327 stating, “If the Bluetooth feature is only being used to collect and table user information for R&D then I think the intention would be disingenuous and would have a larger negative affect on consumers than positive.”
It would appear that the general consumer values privacy when it comes to their user data and vaping habits. While it would be useful for companies to have access to this information, it may be an uphill battle trying to get users to give up this type of information.
Perhaps as the vaporizer industry continues to grow and as perceptions of vaporizer users begin to change, people will be a little more forthcoming with their information. But until then, companies should not expect to use their clients as testers and as one respondent remarked, “With the current administration in the USA I would be greatly concerned about my habits being tracked.” (Respondent 174)
The Age Factor
Half of the 500 respondents were between 19 – 39 while the other half of our respondents were age 40 or higher. The one limitation to this poll was that answers could not be grouped based on age.
Grouping these results based on age may have given us a clearer picture of at which age Bluetooth is seen as a benefit and at what age it is seen as a hassle.
We can look at other connected devices, such as fitness trackers, as a guide post for how the older generation views the idea of integrated technology. According to a 2015 CNBC report, “36 percent of people who own fitness trackers in the U.S. are 35 to 54 years old… In contrast, more than two-thirds of smartwatch owners are… between ages 18 and 34.” Fitness trackers are primarily used by the younger generation who are more open to trying out new technology and just like we would assume with vaporizer users, this type of technology is not as popular with people who are older.
We turned to our comment section to give us a bit of insight into how older generations feel about Bluetooth technology as it pertains to vaporizers;
“Maybe I’m old school. I’m 68 and see no benefit to having to use your device even more than one already does. Push a button and enjoy!” (Respondent 24)
“Being of the older demographic I’m not a big app fan and prefer to keep my usage to myself also.” (Respondent 176)
“I may be over 50, but I use new technology. I have several Bluetooth devices & find they are sometimes tricky to use.” (Respondent 398)
“Not interested in any vaping apps of any kind. I’m a senior and this would be a pain in the ass for me to deal with!” (Respondent 88)
“Simplicity. A lot of us are getting up there and I don’t want to waste time learning to operate another device. Remember the blinking VCR.” (Respondent 95)
“What is Bluetooth… let me know” (Respondent 287)
The last answer while quite entertaining, fits with a general theme coming from the older generation when it comes to Bluetooth. For older users, a vaporizer is seen merely as a means to an end, many older users also tend to be medical patients and are just looking for an effective unit to use with their herbs. They want a device that is simple and easy to use and does not force them to learn any type of new technology. As our last comment pointed out, some older users may not even know what Bluetooth is and therefore this feature and selling point is completely lost on them.
We would hypothesize that the younger generation would be a bit more open to the idea of using their vaporizer in conjunction with their phone, seeing as they are usually joined at the hip and in general are more open to learning new technology. As one young respondent remarks, “Why wouldn’t I want the ability to control my vaporizer with the large touch screen device that’s either always in my hand or pocket?” (Respondent 167)
At this point in time in the vaporizer industry it appears that the general user does not hold Bluetooth functionality in high regard and view it as more of an afterthought, “I see Bluetooth as a bonus at the moment. The vape needs to meet my needs without it and not rely on it.” (Respondent 245). While Bluetooth apps look to add functionality to a vaporizer, most users just want that functionality built into the device and accessed either with a button press combination or a menu available through a digital display.
When it comes down to it, the average vaporizer user looks for a device that is simple and functions well with many users sharing the same thought that, “Having a good functional vaporizer without an app is more important.” (Respondent 307). The allure of Bluetooth functionality is not high on their priority list and many are simply satisfied with pre-set temperatures. Those who want a little more control over their vaporizer seem to prefer a digital display rather than a Bluetooth app that extends functionality.
If anything, currently vaporizer apps are just seen as another roadblock that slows down the process of consuming your herbs, “I really don’t see the need for Bluetooth connectivity for a vaporizer at this point in time. I would think it to be an inconvenient additional step to vaporizing.” (Respondent 134). People are looking to get sessions in as quickly and effectively as possible and do not wish to spend time figuring out an app just to change temperature.
Another roadblock for vaporizer apps has recently come to light, with Apple announcing they will be banning any app that is “vaporizer related” from the iTunes Store. If the top manufacturers are directly affected by this ban than we could see complications with connectivity arise depending on what smartphone operating system you use. You can read the full article about the Apple vaporizer ban on our blog here.
We look forward to seeing what the future has in-store for the vaporizer world and whether or not we see more development go into Bluetooth connectivity. Or if at some point this technology will be as outdated as butane power.
What do you think? Is Bluetooth technology a useful feature? Is it the way of the future? Or is it merely a passing fad that does not add much functionality? We would love for you to weigh in on the debate and have your voice heard!