Rugged PDA Essential Accessories

So we continue with our Rugged Accessory series by taking a look at some of the most popular accessories a device should come with.  Remember that not all Rugged PDA’s are the same or used in the same scenario so we’ll try and seek out whether a cradle is as useful in a warehouse environment as it is in the field.

The Cradle

Perhaps the central accessory of the Rugged PDA, although not as popular as it once was.  Cradles come in a fair few types.  Starting off
with the number of bays they have, single and quad being the most popular configuration but new multi kits allow you to join cradles together to make up you own number of bays. Cradles are useful because they give a very convenient way of charging and syncing devices and you can use a cradle to sync via PAN (USB, RS232) or LAN with an ethernet enabled cradle.  To be honest you still a lot on the warehouse and you’re IT/IS teams are still going to want them but for users based in the field they’re not so popular any longer.  They are a great way to keep your users from connecting and disconnecting cables though which can help with life of the solution.


Sync cables allow you to connect the device to a PC without using a cradle.  Essentially its just a slimmer way to connect.  This allows you to sync the device and in some case charge it too.  Remember that USB is limited to 500mA so it will take you an age to charge even a 2000mAh battery up this way and most manufacturers don’t hook up the charge pins on their USB cables.

RS232 communication is also something a rugged PDA has to do more often than you think.  Does the device you are choosing have ready-made Serial cables or a reseller that can tailor one for you? or indeed is it capable of hosting communication at all?  This is on eo the key functional differences a rugged Handheld has over a smartphone.  If you’re wanting to talk to hardware then ask about hosted serial accessories.



Most people in the field need a convenient way to charge their rugged PDA and a direct charger, either for UK Mains or Vehicle power are probably now the most common accessories asked for.  It always helps to buy manufacturer provided chargers as they’re the right power rating for the Rugged Handheld but also they will mean that you get years of decent use out of them too.  Watch out for some new accessories in this area soon which will allow you to sync and charge with 1 rugged connector pack.

Vehicle cradles

Again in a field mobile environment this is almost becoming the accessory most requested and they come in all kinds of configurations.  Convenient drop in charging will not only give the device more battery life during the day but it could mean you can opt for smaller batteries which are less costly and give the user a slimmer, lighter device to use.  They also allow you to use the device for a wider set of applications such as Sat nav and for communicating with on the move.


How big and are there options of battery size?  Smaller batteries make for a less expensive small and lighter device but a larger battery will have far more staying power and will have a higher overall life due to requiring less charge cycles.  The type of batteries and the battery strategy you choose might not be one supported by the device’s battery options.


More and more users are asking us about cases and we run a plethora of own brand and manufacturer branded cases here.  How a device is used and received by users can sometimes be the case you choose for it and  the right case will always mean fewer repairs as the users will not only stop dropping devices as much but they will be protected further inside a case.  a £30 case can often save £100’s down the line in broken LCD’s and overall device condition.


Triggers handles that snap on to a device will allow it to be used comfortably in a range of scenarios.  This means your picking/warehouse teams can use the same devices as your field guys which can have an impact on your solution and support of it.

Service/Support Packs

Although not an accessory service and support are still a feature that can make or break a device, we’ll talk about these in the next series of posts.

Ongoing consumable accessories

Make sure you can always get hold of Stylus’, LCD protectors, tethers and all the parts you are going to lose or use up during the lifetime of the device.

3rd party Accessories

If all else fails or if you have a specific requirement, how many accessories are there provided by 3rd parties?  This has often been where more common devices manufactured by Motorola or Intermec have scored but with QTY’s of scale and product development being so

accessible these days by anyone, we’re seeing a plethora of accessories hitting the market for all manufacturers equipment.  Snap-ons allow for RFID, serial comms etc, Special end caps covering Sockets (CF/SD) positioned correctly on Trimble and Psion Work About Pro’s mean you can turn to SDIO or CF products to extend the functionality of your device and some manufacturers simply open up their connector specification so its easy to develop your own bespoke kit for them.

There are so many accessories you can choose from these days and whilst these are the core, always ask about anything specific as there are rugged PDA’s that might be key to the success of your solutions.  In the next article well round-up by taking a view on the changing way accessories are developed.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

About The Author

Dave's one of the founders of Raptor, his rants are memorable, his thoughts are stimulating and his heart is set on helping, entertaining and making things like mobile, Android, ruggedness, 3D printing and IOT simple.

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