What Are Battery Chargers and Charging Cradles?

Zebra devices charging using a device battery charging cradle.

A battery charger and a battery charging cradle are devices used for charging device batteries, such as mobile printer, mobile computer or scanner batteries. Battery charging cradles are typically designed to hold the battery securely while it charges, often allowing for multiple batteries to be charged at once. The cradle can be standalone or part of a larger docking system.

What Are the Differences between Battery Cradles of Device Charging Cradles? 

A battery charger/charging cradle charges the spare battery. There are also device chargers/charging cradles available in the market that differ from battery chargers/charging cradles. A device charger/cradle charges the entire device with the battery inside of it. There are some device charging cradles that offer a slot for 1 device and 1 battery in the same cradle. However, not all devices have separate battery chargers/cradles available. For some devices, device cradles can be more commonly found. 

What Are the Features and Functions of Device Cradles? 

Device cradles offer a multifunctional solution, serving as not only chargers but also radio communication interfaces and host communication interfaces. For example, when a scanner is paired with a cradle, it transmits scanned barcode data to the cradle via Bluetooth. The cradle, in turn, connects to the host via a cabled connection (such as USB) and efficiently routes the received data into the host system. In contrast, battery cradles typically do not possess these communication capabilities. 

Furthermore, device cradles come with various features and options. There are different styles of device cradles, including standard/desktop, presentation, and forklift models. A notable feature of device cradles is the ability to pair up to multiple devices using a single cradle. For instance, with Zebra device cradles, you can pair up to seven scanners with a single cradle, streamlining data collection processes. Additionally, device charging cradles allow for scanner configuration upon insertion, utilizing settings stored within the cradle, a convenient feature known as AutoConfig. Firmware and configuration updates can also be conveniently transmitted through the cradle for cordless scanners. Some device charging cradles are equipped with page buttons, facilitating the location of paired devices like barcode scanners, enhancing user-friendliness and efficiency in your operations. 

What Are the Differences Between Single and Multi-slot Battery and Device Charging Cradles?

1. Number of Device Slots:

  • Single Cradles: These cradles are designed to charge batteries using one charging station at a time. Single cradles tend to have a single slot. This is true for many barcode scanner cradles. However, there are some device cradles that have multiple slots for charging additional batteries within a single device charging cradle, such as single cradles for wearable scanners. In general, single cradles are ideal for individual users or situations where you need to charge using a single power source.
  • Multi-Slot Cradles: Multi-slot cradles, on the other hand, can accommodate multiple charging stations simultaneously. They come in various configurations depending on the specific model. Multi-slot cradles are more suitable for businesses or environments with many devices that need to be charged and managed together.

2. Charging and Synchronization:

  • Single Cradles: These cradles typically focus on charging a single battery or device and may offer data synchronization capabilities between the scanner and the device cradle.
  • Multi-Slot Cradles: Multi-slot cradles are designed for bulk charging and management of multiple devices at once.

3. Form Factor:

  • Single Cradles: Single cradles are compact and take up less space, making them suitable for individual workstations or on-the-go charging needs.
  • Multi-Slot Cradles: Multi-slot cradles are larger and bulkier due to the need to accommodate multiple charging stations. They are typically used in environments where centralized device management is required, such as warehouses, retail stores, or healthcare facilities.

4. Cost:

  • Single Cradles: Single cradles are generally less expensive than their multi-slot battery charging cradle counterparts.
  • Multi-Slot Cradles: Multi-slot cradles are more expensive due to their ability to manage many devices simultaneously.

5. Use Cases:

  • Single Cradles: These are suitable for scenarios where you have a limited number of devices and individual users or where devices are not frequently used in bulk. However, this is not necessarily the case for barcode scanners. There can be very large deployments on single cradles. A cradle is often used to communicate directly to the host device and therefore often needs to be deployed alongside each host such as POS system, EMR, etc.
  • Multi-Slot Cradles: Multi-slot cradles are best for businesses and industries that rely on a fleet of devices that need to be charged, synchronized, and managed efficiently.

What Color Is the Battery Charger Indicator?

Battery chargers often have charging LED indicators. The color of the LED indicator shows the status of a battery. For instance, if the LED indicator is off, then it can indicate that the battery is not charging. A solid amber color can indicate that a healthy battery is charging. A solid green color can indicate that a healthy battery has completed its charge. A slow-blinking red color can indicate that the device is charging but the battery is at the end of useful life. A fast-blinking red color can indicate to the user that there is a charging error. A solid red color can indicate an unhealthy battery. The color of the LED indicator and its meaning can vary by product. It’s important to check the product reference guide of the specific device for more information.

Do You Need to Charge a Battery When You First Buy It?

Before you begin using your device for the first time, it's recommended to fully charge the main battery. The initial full charge can help condition the battery, potentially extending its lifespan and efficiency over time. Without a full charge, the device might also not perform at its best during the initial use, which could impact the user experience. You'll know it's fully charged when the green charging light, also known as a light-emitting diode (LED), stays on without blinking or turning off. To charge your device, you can use a battery charger cradle with a suitable power supply.

What Is an Ethernet Battery Charger Cradle?

Some devices use an ethernet battery charger. An ethernet battery charger cradle can provide device charging and Ethernet communication for single to multiple devices. The ethernet can be used to connect the device to a network for data transfer and communication. This could be used for updating firmware, syncing data, or remotely managing the device. Some ethernet battery charger cradle kits come with the cradle, power supply and a DC line cord. A DC line cord is a direct current cord, or a power cable used to supply DC power from a power source to a device. The cord typically has a connector at each end, one for the power source (like a wall outlet or power adapter) and one for the device being powered. 

What Are US AC Line Cords?

Some battery chargers come with a US AC line cord. A US AC Line Cord is a power cable that is used to connect an electrical device to the main electricity supply in the United States. The "AC" stands for Alternating Current, which is the type of power supply commonly used in homes and businesses. The cord typically has a plug on one end that fits into a standard US electrical outlet, and a connector on the other end that fits into the device or power adapter. The design and specifications of the US AC Line Cord adhere to the standards and regulations set by US electrical authorities.

When Shopping for a Battery or Device Charger or Charging Cradle, What Are Things to Keep in Mind?

  1. Compatibility: Make sure the charger or cradle is compatible with the specific device or battery model you have. There are a variety of devices available in the market and each may have different power and connector requirements.
  2. Number of Slots: Depending on your needs, you may want a single-slot charger/cradle or a multi-slot one. Multi-slot chargers are useful for businesses that have multiple devices in use and need to charge several batteries simultaneously.
  3. Connectivity: Some charging cradles offer additional functionality, like Ethernet connectivity, which allows for data transfer and remote management of the device.
  4. Power Supply and Cords: Some chargers or cradles may not come with a power supply or DC line cord, and these may need to be purchased separately. Make sure you know what is included in your purchase.
  5. Warranty: Look at the warranty offered on the chargers or cradles. This will give you peace of mind knowing that your product is covered in case of any manufacturing defects.

What Are Some Safety Precautions for Battery Charging?

When using battery chargers or battery charging cradles, it's essential to follow safety precautions to ensure your safety and the proper functioning of the equipment. Here are some general safety precautions to keep in mind: 

  1. Read the user manual. Always start by reading the user manual provided for your specific product and charger model. This manual will contain important safety instructions and guidelines for proper usage.
  2. Before plugging in the charger, inspect it for any visible damage, exposed wires, or loose components. Do not use a charger that appears to be damaged.
  3. Do not place a charger in locations where liquids or metallic objects may be dropped on the charger or into the charging bays.
  4. Do not charge batteries near combustible or conductive metals or materials.
  5. Do not charge batteries in direct sunlight.
  6. Do not block ventilating slots on the bottom covers if present.
  7. Ensure that the charger is plugged into a power source that will not be accidentally turned off, especially in cases where charging batteries overnight is necessary.
  8. Charge batteries in a well-ventilated room. Avoid charging batteries in extreme temperatures and humidity.
  9. Charge batteries in a room that does not exceed 30°C or 86°F.
  10. Keep the charger and the charging area away from water, moisture, or liquids to prevent electrical shock and damage to the charger.
  11. Charge Zebra batteries using Zebra battery chargers. Make sure to use the designated battery chargers for charging the specific type of batteries meant for your device. Using non-certified chargers can pose safety risks and may damage your equipment. Also, do not charge other types of batteries in the charger.
  12. Avoid overcharging batteries and do not leave batteries connected to the charger for extended periods after they have reached a full charge. Overcharging can reduce battery life and pose safety risks.
  13. When you're done charging the batteries, unplug the battery charger or battery charging cradle from the power source. Leaving chargers plugged in unnecessarily can be a fire hazard.
  14. Ensure that the charger's input voltage matches the voltage of your electrical outlet. Using an incorrect voltage can damage the charger and pose a safety risk.
  15. Plug the charger directly into a standard electrical outlet, power strip, or surge protector with appropriate capacity. Avoid using damaged or overloaded outlets.
  16. Do not modify or alter the battery charger in any way, as this can be dangerous and void any warranties.
  17. Keep chargers out of reach of children and pets to prevent accidental injury or damage.

Remember that these are general safety precautions, and it's crucial to refer to the specific user manual and safety guidelines for your device charger model. Additionally, local regulations and safety standards may vary, so be sure to comply with any relevant local regulations and guidelines regarding the use of battery chargers.

Explore Zebra's Battery Chargers, Charging Cradles, and Accessories