If you bought it from us, or any of the other vape retailers in New Zealand, chances are extremely slim that your device is a clone.
A ‘clone’ is a device or component that is made to look like the legit version of the product, but has in fact been made outside of the license of the original manufacturer, by a third party.
Clones are generally sold as such, and so it’s likely that if you’re buying a clone, you’re doing it on purpose. But what would make someone want to purchase a cloned version of a product? Usually, the draw is the price, as clones tend to be a lot cheaper to manufacture than the legitimate versions of products.
However, when you receive your cloned device, though it may look very similar or even identical to the real thing, the internal components and the finer details are often incomplete, fragile, or badly implemented.
I have personally never owned or used a clone, though working in the store I have encountered several, and all had similar stories: All were mechanical mods, and all of them had some serious manufacturing issue that made them either unsafe or simply completely inoperable.
One of my colleagues encountered a customer with a cloned mechanical mod, which looked to all the world like the real thing, except when our manager inspected it. He found that the switch mechanism contained no spring, meaning the device would ‘autofire’ (start vaping without the user operating the fire button) if inverted. A device like this could easily vent your batteries if there were oriented incorrectly.
In another case, I encountered a mech mod clone that, while fairly operational and authentic looking, it had lost a lot of paint around the edges, despite the fact that it had never been used. The threads were covered in burrs (small sharp protrusions of metal left over from milling) and were starting to gain a layer of oxidation.
I also remember it being significantly lighter than it’s legitimate counterpart, suggesting it was made from lower-quality materials.
The last clone I encountered was another mech, and on this one, every part that could conceivably be loose, was. The battery cap and the button were rattly, and the 510 pin didn’t make a tight connection. The paint on the tube had a huge blemish on it. It also felt extremely light, and the threads were badly damaged from less than a month of use.
All of these devices would have required some level of repair, jerry rigging, or tinkering to be considered safe, and even then, it would be impossible to guarantee that they were as safe as they could be, given that shoddy metal can often have faults that aren’t visible on the surface.
So what is it that makes a legit version of a product so safe and reliable compared to one of these imposters?
The biggest factor tends to be the materials.Quality metals are often substituted for low-quality alloys (such as aluminium), as the most expensive part of a legit device is often the raw metals.
There are a lot of cover-all names for these poor alloys, like ‘pig brass’, ‘pot brass’, or ‘chinesium’ (questionable name, I know). These alloys tend to damage easier, and don’t hold shape as well, which can mean threads strip easily, which can cause serious issues, especially in mechanical mods.
Alongside this, these low-quality alloys do not take paint particularly well, and often paint on these clones will chip very quickly, and not in a rugged and graceful way.
One of the big things that makes a nice mod nice is that the machining of everything is as perfect as possible; the threads are smooth and easy to screw and unscrew, the buttons move smoothly and don’t stick, and the battery won’t rattle in its compartment. A legit mod will be manufactured and then taken to a quality control team for careful inspection. Some high end companies even use two or more QC teams. Consequently, almost every device that makes it through this process is near-identical. Clone producers do not use any form of QC, and this leads to a lot of defective devices.
Most cloners not only use different, cheaper metals to make their products, but also they tend to use to cheaper manufacturing methods, such as casting metal (pouring it into a mold) instead of milling it out from a solid piece. Premium metals tend to have been tempered, meaning they are less rigid, and can deal with stress without fracturing. These already low-quality metals used in clones will be cast without tempering, meaning that they will retain any internal stress or flaws after setting, and will be a lot more fragile. The bad machining (or lack thereof in favour of casting) along with the poor metals, means that volt drop is a huge issue with a lot of clones - that is, they have a non-zero level of resistance elsewhere than the atomizer, which will cause weak hits, and potential heating of the button, battery, or top cap.
It pays to be aware that not all clones are mechanical mods, RDAs and tanks. There are many counterfeit battery cells, coils and regulated module clones out there, and most are wholly unsafe, or at the very least far below the quality of a legitimate product, containing second-rate components and cells.
When it comes to batteries or anything that includes a battery, I would always err on the side of caution and only purchase legitimate products from reputable retailers and brands. Bad batteries are the cause of most vaping misfortune.
Finally, no clone manufacturer I have come across has offered any level of customer support or service. I am not claiming that this is always the case, but I expect it is a rarity. With a legitimate product, if you have any issues with it, you can take it back to your retailer, or email the manufacturer, and they will readily assist you with any issues you are having.
I would always recommend legit over cloned, and always advise safety over saving a little money.
“If you don’t think your mech will outlive you, it’s a probably a clone” -Hamish- 2018