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USB OTG: What it means and how to use it

Sterling Keys (translation)
3

Some Android devices such as the Nexus 5 support a very useful feature that manufacturers don’t really make a whole lot of fuss over: USB On the go, or OTG. At the very basic core, it means that you can use your Android device as a USB host and connect, for example, a USB stick directly to the smartphone. At the core, it has a bunch of other uses. What else can USB OTG be used for and how it works, we’ll explain below.

usb otg 2
With the help of a small cable, you can connect a mouse, keyboard, or USB flashd drive to your Nexus 5.  / © AndroidPIT

What is OTG?

As stated above, OTG stands for “On the go”. With two devices that are USB OTG compatible you can make them communicate with each other and perform certain functions. The most common one we use is when we use a PC, which acts as a host, and connect a USB flash drive or a smartphone to it. With the introduction of more devices being OTG compatible, you can now bypass the PC: photos can be sent directly from your camera to a printer, a keyboard can be connected directly to a mobile device, or a USB stick can be connected to a smartphone.  One of the easiest ways to figure out whether you have a device that is USB OTG compatible is to look for the following USB logo with green arrow.

usb otg logo
If you see this logo, your device is USB OTG capable.

How can you use OTG on your smartphone or tablet?

The applications of USB OTG are varied and based on compatible hardware. With smartphones and tablets, the technology can be used to connect keyboards, mice, hard drives, and USB sticks.  However, not all smartphones and tablets are OTG compatible. If you’re not sure whether your device has the capability of acting as an OTG host, you can easily figure it out by downloading a free app from the Play Store called USB Host Diagnostics.

Just having a device that is OTG compatible isn’t enough though as you’ll also need a suitable OTG cable for your device. Of course, you can easily grab one for a few bucks at a few online portals, including over at Amazon.com. Furthermore, to connect storage devices such as a USB flash drive or a hard drive, you may also need an app like USB Host Controller or Total Commander.

usb otg 1
Keyboard and smartphone, together at last. / © AndroidPIT

What can I do with USB OTG?

USB OTG makes it possible to couple your smartphone or tablet along with peripheral devices that can be made to control it, like mice or a keyboard. Of course, there are some restrictions, such as some higher tech mice with multiple buttons  not always working, but for the most part the basic operations are enabled.  This type of functionality can be easily used to convert tablets and larger sized devices into a spare laptop on the fly.

Even the connection of storage devices such as USB sticks or external hard drives can be achieved with USB OTG. Using a file manager on your device, you can directly access data on an external storage device and play movies or music without having to store them on your device. Alternatively, you can use it as a non-cloud based back-up storage for storing your photos, music, and other files from your smartphone.

Which devices support USB OTG?

Many of the current iteration of smartphones offer the USB OTG compatibility, I including the following:

  • Sony Xperia Z, ZL, Z Ultra, Z1
  • Samsung Galaxy S2, S3, S4, Note 1,  Note 2, Note 3
  • LG Optimus G, G2
  • HTC X, One, One mini, One max
  • Google Nexus 5

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Comments

Write new comment:
  • James Ahn 9 months ago Link

    Fantastic! Wasn't aware of the certified OTG logo...better keep an eye out for that!

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  • Aashika Venkatesan 7 months ago Link

    Is it compatible with all the models of printers? and data-cards?

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  • Karl Kaur 3 months ago Link

    Certainly Sony has been doing well to make its smartphones USB OTG compatible.

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