For a while now, wireless charging has been slowly gaining momentum, and one of the phones that includes support is Samsung’s Galaxy S 4 (SGS4). For the past week, I’ve been using a review unit of Samsung’s wireless charging accessory kit for the aforementioned smartphone which includes both a Qi compatible wireless charging pad and battery back.

Using the wireless charging accessory is simple – you remove the stock battery back, snap on the new one, and plug the wireless charging pad into the Samsung charger that originally shipped with the phone. This last point is critical, as the wireless charging pad requires the 2 amp charger that Samsung supplies with the SGS4. I’ve touched on charging in the past before, but this charger includes the 1.2 V signaling across the D+ and D- pins which signals 2 amp (tablet-class) compatible charging to Samsung devices, like the charging pad. Using a normal BC 1.2 compatible charger won’t work, as that specification only stipulates up to 1.5 amp delivery on its dedicated charging port.

Of course, since the charging pad and SGS4 are Qi compliant, you can obviously use a variety of wireless charging pads that implement that standard to charge the device. I tested on my go-to Energizer dual position Qi charger, and the SGS4 with wireless charging back worked as expected.

The only downside with the wireless charging back is that it does add noticeably to the thickness of the SGS4. I broke out my calipers and measured an increase in thickness of just over 1.7 mm with the wireless charging back attached instead of the stock one.

Samsung Galaxy S 4 Charging Back Thickness (Measured)
SGS4 No Battery Cover 7.20 mm
SGS4 Stock Battery Cover 7.94 mm
SGS4 Wireless Charging Battery Cover 9.70 mm

It’s not a huge difference, but it is noticeable. I suppose one benefit to this added thickness is that the front vertex of the camera no longer is the thickest part of the SGS4, which adds a bit of protection if you’re laying it back-first, on a flat surface.

The back of the wireless charging back has two sets of two contact pads that mate up with the inside of the SGS4. I tested with my DMM and on one set you get a steady 5 volts when aligned with the charging pad, on the other nothing. I strongly suspect the wireless charging downstream controller is in this battery back, so Samsung can keep their handsets relatively standards-agnostic and just ship whatever wireless charging standard back they want. In addition this obviously would help keep the BOM cost lower on the device and avoids shipping controllers that customers might not use.

So the big last question is – how well does it work and how fast does it charge the SGS4? For a while now I’ve been measuring charge times for devices, something I believe enters just as strongly into the battery and power side of a device as its time through our battery life tests. The SGS4 is already one of the fastest charging devices out there considering its battery size thanks to the speedy (albeit proprietary) 2 amp charging signaling. Because there’s overhead involved with wireless charging, this obviously gets diminished with the wireless charger. I measured a fully drained to fully charged time of 3.922 hours with the wireless charging back attached and Samsung’s charging pad connected to the 2 amp charger.

Device Charge Time - 0 to 100 Percent

That’s a measurable and obvious increase in time over the dedicated 2 amp charger connected over USB (2.883 hours, so about 35 percent longer charge time), but that’s the price you pay for the added convenience of not having to plug anything in. On the device side wireless charging is implemented properly, you see the wireless charging splash screen while charging you see the wireless charging logo with the device off, and wireless charging indicators in Android.

As I mentioned earlier, wireless charging is slowly gaining momentum. It isn’t everywhere, but it’s starting to become more and more of a given instead of a one-off. I’m still waiting for my Qi-compliant nightstand table from IKEA, or charging pads at my local cafe, but who knows when that’ll finally (if ever) happen. Obviously uptake for Samsung would be faster were the SGS4 compatible without the need for an accessory back and charging pad, but the tradeoff would obviously be a thicker phone. I’m pleased with the wireless charging accessory, it works like it’s supposed to, and wireless charging definitely is an added convenience after you’ve used it for a while. The wireless charging pad from Samsung runs for $49, and the wireless charging cover runs $39, both of which are a little steep but still around what I would expect for the pad. Of course the nice thing about Qi is that after you have the cover, you can always shop around for a pad that suits you. 

Source: Samsung (Wireless Charging Pad) (Wireless Charging Cover)

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  • Lonyo - Sunday, July 14, 2013 - link

    Yeah, something like a 0-80% charge time would be useful as well as 0-100%. In many devices, the final part takes longest.
  • kkwst2 - Sunday, July 14, 2013 - link

    I guess. But I just have a hard time getting excited about setting the device on a pad rather than plugging it in. I have no trouble plugging it in. For me it is sort of a solution looking for a problem. I guess if the problem is you really hate plugging in your phone, it is a pretty good solution.
  • abrowne1993 - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    Not to sound rude, but have you ever used a device with wireless charging for an extended period of time? It's only a minor convenience but once you're used to just setting the phone down to charge it you won't want to go back to plugging it in. I have my charging plate at my desk where I would set my phone down, anyway, so I basically never have to think about charging my phone anymore. It feels automatic.
  • lilmoe - Sunday, July 14, 2013 - link

    You know, a LOT of numbers on your charts are simply not true. Not just this particular chart, but I also find lots of numbers here and there that are far from being accurate.
    My SGS4 charges in little less that 1:30 with the Samsung charger, never did I see one that took around 3 hours to charge...
  • dsumanik - Monday, July 15, 2013 - link

    The reporting around here, particularly from anand, is becoming more and more biased and innacurate

    for instance, 3 MBA reviews in 3 weeks on a device absolutely unchanged from last year?

    Apple did no innovation for the air in 2013... this years air is actually slower in many cases and it was all samsung and intel doing the upgrades, apple slapped it in the same package and anand is writing articles recommending to purchase the device.

    At some point, you just need to ask yourself how much you are willing to tolerate.

    I have an iphone 5 and SGS4 and i just timed it, the charge from zero to full was 1:46 for sgs4 and iphone 5 was 2:04 (stopped at 99%)

    wireless is cool though, wheres my idesk?
  • AnonReader - Monday, July 15, 2013 - link

    Why is it that you need to bring up your perceived lack of Apple criticism on AnandTech in articles unrelated to Apple? It's getting quite tiring.
  • Margalus - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    Or we could say your numbers are not true at all and are far from accurate... I have never seen one charge as fast as you say. If my sg s4 is almost dead it takes 3 hours for a full charge. At about 50% it takes about 1.5-2 hours for a full charge. this is using the samsung charger. I have never seen one charge as fast as you say..
  • JNo - Sunday, July 14, 2013 - link

    What's insane is that, here in the UK, Samsung wireless qi charging will probably become more prevalent than Nexus 4 wireless qi charging even though the Nexus 4 has it built in! Honestly, the wireless charging was a big reason I got the Nexus 4 almost a year ago and almost a year later, one of the big features is still missing. Just how hard can it be to implement and sell a single-use, single-function wireless charger for a phone that is already built and sold to standard specs?!! Pathetic (yeah I know it's available in the US but that doesn't help me here in the UK).

    This is false advertising to me. And the phone has very poor reception (compared to others same network same sim same area) and is jittery and far from the "buttery smooth" phrase copied from review to review. Disappointed Google....
  • JNo - Sunday, July 14, 2013 - link

    PS any chance you can test this Samsung qi charger with the Nexus 4 please Brian? Would probably be my best chance of getting wireless charging anyway! :)
  • Łukasz Markiewicz - Sunday, July 14, 2013 - link

    Same here. I'm thinking of getting one for the Nexus 4. In Poland we can only buy Nokia qi chargers (which are expensive) and now this Samsung model which is somewhat affordable (you can buy the pad alone, without the snap-on back).

    This uses the qi standard so in theory it should work, but I'm curious how accurate you need to be with this thing. Can you just put the phone more or less in the middle and have it charge reliably?

    Also since I don't have a GS4, does the pad come with the 2 amp Samsung charger. I'm guessing it's not included since every GS4 owner already has one.

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