Yes, yes, the Note II is now ‘the previous model’, but it also means that it’s incredibly cheap. £200 in the UK on the second hand market for something of this specification is really extraordinary. Great RGB 5.5″ AMOLED screen, big battery, great camera and speaker, arguably the best Galaxy Note stylus, and so on. But there’s one thing missing from the 2014 flagship feature set: Qi wireless charging. Here’s how to add it back in.
Now, it’s important to add at this point that the simple accessory here isn’t an official accessory. However, Samsung put in the relevant gold contacts in the Note II’s chassis for wireless charging and it put in software hooks to detect this, even warning about the charging playing havoc with the (inductive) S-Pen if used at the same time. What Samsung never did, as far as I’m aware, was actually release an official Qi charging back cover, maybe the plans for this fell down behind the back of the corporate filing cabinet?
However, step in third parties, with at least two sets of Qi wireless charging coils that can be easily retro-fitted to an existing Galaxy Note II battery. I’m using this product, around £10/13 Euros on Amazon, but there are others which work in the same way. The idea is that Qi coils are so thin, under 1mm, that they can fit in between the Note II’s battery and the plastic back cover of the device without mechanically stressing either.
Result: a very cheap accessory that takes all of 30 seconds to fit and gives the Note II full Qi wireless charging (with only a couple of caveats, mentioned below). Almost makes you wonder why Samsung never got its own accessory out the door – or put Qi charging into the device in the first place.
Here’s what you get in the small box:
Turn the Qi coil assembly over and there’s a sticker seal covering a rather rough and ready strip of double-sided tape:
Taking the back of my Note II and the tape off the coil assembly, you can see both Samsung’s battery extension connectors and those on the Qi assembly:
Now, there’s no physical mating mechanism, we’re simply talking of two gold-plated ‘nubs’ which sit fairly neatly in matching gold-plated hollows in Samsung’s connectors:
With the assembly in place, the connection keeps flapping loose, but fear not because putting the Note II’s standard back cover on holds the connection together perfectly.
Moment of truth then. With the back cover on, put the Galaxy Note II on any standard Qi charging pad (I used a Nokia DT-900) and you’ll see the pop-up below (don’t worry, it disappears after a couple of seconds):
With Qi charging working using electromagnetic induction, perhaps it’s not surprising that such a warning is popped up – since the S Pen uses similar technology on a much smaller power scale to work its magic – you can’t use the stylus while the phone is on charge this way!
The Note II is thus fully equipped for Qi wireless charging wherever you may go. And one day these Qi pads may be in every room in your house, on every table in cafes and trains, and so forth. Here’s hoping.
However, I did mention caveats above. You may also have noticed the power rating of the Qi assembly in the photos above. 500mA, as a maximum output, is quite a bit lower than the 2A put out by the mains charger supplied in the Note II’s box. In my tests, with the Note II charging wirelessly, I achieved about 7% battery charge per hour, compared to the expected four times this with the supplied 2A charger.
Now, a slower charging rate isn’t necessarily a showstopper, since the phone will be resting on the charging pad when you’re at your desk (or similar) during the day – the idea is that it’s always topped up and fully charged every time you pick it up. But if you’re ever in a hurry to get charged up before heading off then you might still want to plug into a standard microUSB charger.
The second caveat is that the inevitable inefficiencies in wireless charging do lead to heat – the Note II and its battery will get warm. Not hot to the touch, but definitely warm, beyond body temperature. One thing Lithium-Ion batteries don’t like is being too hot for too long, especially while being charged. It’s too early to report on any long term acceleration in degradation in capacity caused by heating during charging this way, but I’d expect the effect to be slight. And in any case, a replacement Note II battery can be obtained cheaply via the usual sources at any stage.
In daily use, Qi charging’s just one extra option to keep up your sleeve in the battle to stay charged. It’s a shame Samsung didn’t provide an official way to achieve this, but this third party accessory seems to work just fine.
PS. In case you’re wondering, the Qi charging works across several millimetres of space and so most Note II cases won’t affect the efficiency unduly. In addition, I tested various replacement back covers (e.g. the official flip one) with the coil assembly in place. The fit was sometimes tighter, but the case did go on and stay in place. Comments welcome if you’ve had issues, though.