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What is a Docking Cradle?

R. Kayne
R. Kayne

A docking cradle is a charging station for electronic devices such as smart phones or personal digital assistants (PDAs). It can also provide networking or synching capability to other compatible devices, most often a laptop or desktop. In some cases this device has been replaced by a simple power adapter and mini-plug, which for example, is common for charging cell phones.

Apple’s Nano iPod mobile digital music player uses a docking cradle to recharge. Some models of these docking cradles are made to use in the car so that the iPod can recharge while simultaneously playing music through the vehicle’s audio system.

Some docking cradles are designed specifically for iPods.
Some docking cradles are designed specifically for iPods.

With the popularity of Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) units in cars, some clever manufacturers decided to make a mobile cradle that could incorporate GPS functionality into a PDA. These come with GPS software that utilizes positioning and mapping for PDA users who need GPS capability without the price tag of a stand-alone unit. One such example is the Arkon Powered GPS Docking Cradle with MobiNavigator software

The PDA/GPS docking cradle attaches to the dash with a heavy-duty suction cup, with power supplied through a wired adapter that runs to the cigarette lighter. The user first loads the software to a computer where he or she can choose regional maps to upload to the PDA. Using this system one can prepare for a vacation or business trip, virtually customizing GPS functionality while keeping the PDA streamlined of unneeded data. The cost of this type of device is considerably less than a dedicated GPS unit.

Another type of docking cradle, available for many models of laptops, is known as a docking station. A docking station brings integrated desktop functionality to a laptop by providing interface support to use a standard desktop monitor, keyboard and other peripherals with the laptop. A docking station is convenient for the office or home, allowing the laptop to be used like a desktop when not on the road. Docking stations, like docking cradles are proprietary, designed for specific makes and models.

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Discussion Comments


I used to have a Palm docking cradle. It would serve as a PDA charger and connect to my computer so I could sync my data. It was pretty bulky.

Now I use a USB docking cradle for my iPhone (which is my phone and my PDA) that does the same thing but it is a simple USB cord and adapter, a lot more convenient and not so bulky.

I have to say I am really enjoying it.


I have a docking cradle that is a cell phone charger and it has speakers so that I can play the music that is on my phone. I love it.

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    • Some docking cradles are designed specifically for iPods.
      By: pizuttipics
      Some docking cradles are designed specifically for iPods.