A viable option for adding wireless charging to your Note 4, but read the fine print first
The Galaxy Note 4's lack of wireless charging leads owners to the decision of buying Samsung's own first-party wireless charging back, or going with a third-party charging insert, in order to add the capability. Unfortunately the replacement Qi charging back that Samsung sells is thicker than what the phone comes with and kills any chance that you can use a case with your phone, which is a deal breaker for many.
Coming to the rescue, TYLT offers a Vu-Mate Qi wireless charging card for the Note 4 — just like previous Notes and Galaxy S phones before it — that adds wireless charging capability right underneath the stock back cover with no discernible increase in bulk. But of course nothing's perfect — you'll still be giving up in a few different areas to add Qi charging to your Note 4 this way. Read along for our review of the TYLT Vu-Mate Qi charging card.
Just like wireless charging cards from TYLT and others, the Vu-Mate is a thin charging coil in a plastic wrapper with small metal contacts that reach out and touch the appropriate phone-side contacts to complete the loop. There's no real way for the contacts to "clip" into place, so instead the card sticks onto the Note 4's battery with adhesive to stay put and keep the juice flowing. To install it, just peel off the adhesive backing, line up the charger pins and place it down — replace the back cover and you're in business, the phone now charges wirelessly.
Sound good? Awesome. Well, here's where the little compromises come in.
Every high-end phone is manufacturered within pretty tight tolerances, and for that reason there's really not much extra room underneath the Note 4's back cover for extra stuff. So when you introduce this Vu-Mate card, no matter how thin it is it's going to make a difference with how the Note 4 comes together. While TYLT says that there's no extra bulk added, those with a high attention to detail will notice that there is a small bump on the side of the Note 4 that has more of the card in it. The cover does snap on and stay put just fine, but there's a bulge in the back if you feel around for it.
In practical terms the bulge does nothing, and isn't something you can feel when using the phone regularly. But it does interfere with the two Note 4 cases I have here, despite what you may expect. There's just enough bulge in the back cover to make both a two-piece Seidio case and a hard plastic Incipio case just barely fit wrong. The Seidio doesn't take kindly to the bulge and won't stay together reliably, and the Incipio is contorted enough that the covers for the power and volume keys don't line up right all of the time. This certainly won't be the case with all cases out there — particularly more forgiving rubber options — but it's something to be aware of as it somewhat contradicts the branding of the card as being compatible with cases.
Just like many other third-party charging inserts, the Vu-Mate card seemed to completely kill NFC on my Note 4 as well. There's a big asterisk in the description of the card that says it may block NFC, but I found no angle or way to get it to work — your mileage may vary there.
After being disappointed in the extra bulk of Samsung's first-party Qi charging back for the Note 4, now I can understand a bit of why the extra bulk was needed. Adding Qi charging to a phone that wasn't designed to have it by default, while also not interfering with NFC, requires extra space — and that means thickness. At $24.95 the Vu-Mate card isn't a cheap piece of tech to take a flyer on, and it comes in only $5 less than Samsung's own solution. Chances are if you have a forgiving and flexible case — and have no need for NFC — you'll be best off giving the Vu-Mate a run rather than Samsung's replacement back, but for many people the choice to go with the officially-sanctioned first-party option will be a better choice.
Maybe we'll be able to throw out all of this guesswork with the next Note, provided Samsung changes its tune on integrated wireless charging. One can hope.