As Rugged Handheld PDA’s become more and more ubiquitous in our business solutions, more and more demands are placed on the accessories required to keep them running, especially in “field” based applications. 1 Area we see a lot of confusion in is just how you can charge your rugged handheld when on the move, and in particular the options available in vehicle.
This article covers off all the known charging solutions we can think of with the pros and cons of each one!
We’ll start with the most expensive solution and work down:
Rugged handheld pda vehicle holder/charger solution
These basically consist of a cradle, mount/arm and charging solution and are designed to give users maximum convenience with drop in charging and usability whilst on the move so they can use apps like Satnav easily and safely. These kits are no longer fully wired in, needing an engineer to fit them as they tend to come with a lighter socket attachment for charging. This makes the charge kit portable between cars, easy to fit in minutes but also giving the same functionality as a classic wired in kit.
Larger rugged PDA devices still tend to have expensive fully rugged vehicle kits that are appropriate to the size and statue of the device but increasingly our customers are using the kits supplied by Brodit and Carcomm which are very good and work very well with smaller rugged devices like the Pidion BM170 or Motorola ES400.
Holder / Charge lead solution
Basically a holder on its own that will hold the device steady whilst on the move, however the charge cable is fitted separately (see below). This gives the same usability as the full cradle kit above, but instead of a “drop-in” charge, you have to manually fit the charge cable every time.
These come ion all shapes and size but essentially plug into your vehicles lighter socket at pone end and your rugged handheld pda in the other. Now the thing to remember here is that rugged handheld’s tend to have big batteries which require a powerful charger. This is the main reason you’ll still see £50 snap on style chargers, which also have the added benefit of being more rugged, protecting the device’s power sockets in the event of a drop during charging.
There are more and more Micro-USB based rugged PDA’s coming on to the market however, and whilst there’s nothing wrong with these, most will only deliver a low top up charge.
Now, you need to be aware that there’s a whole load of tech packed into a charger that’s often missing from the cheap £5 Ebay USB chargers.
Commercial class vehicle chargers
Firstly always make sure you are using a “Commercial” class charger. These will work happily in a 12 or 24V commercial vehicle and are designed to cope with the added voltage. More and more standard cars are using 24V these days and whilst you’ll get away with a non-commercial charger, it can cause rugged pda’s to fail over time.
Ampage and Micro-USB
make sure your charger has the right amount of ampage for your device. This will determine how quickly the battery will get charged and is a common issue for users. For example a cheap £5 charger could have a 5ooma rating. If your battery is 3000mAh in size, then this will take over t6 hours to fully charge. We always recommend looking for a 2000mA (2A) capable charger.
Also be aware that Micro-USB is only designed to take a 500mA charge. Some devices have got round this but many, like the Motorola ES400 or MC45, will only accept a lower charge through them.
Over charge protection
If you continually charge a li-ION battery when its full, you will damage it, so always check to see the vehicle charger has “over-charge protection.” These chargers detect of the rugged handheld pda is fully charged and then will switch off, occasionally checking and only then charging when the battery needs topping up.
micro-USB is not rugged inherently rugged!
Be careful when using a Micro-usb connector directly to charge on the move. Now we’re not saying stay away, but rather just be aware of a few limitations, educate your users and you should be OK. We cover this in next weeks technical post.
So hopefully that’s helped a bunch of you out there.
The Rugged and Mobile blog.