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USB OTG: What is it and what can I do with it?

Sometimes the most useful things have the dullest names, and that's definitely the case with USB OTG: it's in stacks of devices and can do some really clever stuff, but many people have never heard of it. To help bring you up to speed, this is our guide to USB OTG and what you can do with it. 

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If you see this logo on your device's packaging, it's USB OTG compatible. / © ANDROIDPIT

What is USB OTG?

USB OTG (USB On The Go) is a standard that enables mobile devices to talk to one another. Traditionally mobile devices could only connect to a Mac/PC by USB, but USB OTG makes it possible for devices to connect directly to each other.

And that's not all USB OTG can do. By enabling your device to act as a USB host – that is, to be the boss of other devices that you connect to it – you can use additional hardware such as storage, keyboards or even musical instruments together with your handset.

 

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A simple cable that can let you do so much. / © ANDROIDPIT

How do I know if my Android device supports USB OTG?

USB OTG has its own logo (seen above), which should be on your device's packaging if it's supported. If you don't have the original packaging to hand, you can use your old friend Google to find this information.

That said, if your smartphone was released within the last two years, you can almost guarantee it will support it. 

How can you use OTG on your smartphone or tablet?

If your device is OTG compatible, you’ll also need a suitable OTG cable or connector for your device. You can grab one for a few bucks on Amazon.

USB OTG cable
$2-7
Amazon
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A USB OTG connector by Samsung. / © ANDROIDPIT

What can I do with USB OTG?

Connect a mouse or keyboard

This is one of the most typical ways to use USB OTG. It's possible to couple your smartphone or tablet with peripheral devices, such as a mouse or a keyboard, which you can then use to control it. There are some restrictions – for example, gaming mice with a billion buttons might not be fully compatible – but for the most part, the basic operations are enabled.

Just plug in a USB mouse and you will automatically see its cursor appear on your display. This is also a great way to use your device if the touchscreen is broken. Alternatively, connect an external keyboard to turn a tablet into a laptop.

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Connect a mouse for plug-and-play cursor action. / © ANDROIDPIT

Connect a MIDI keyboard

If you fancy making music on Android, USB OTG enables you to connect devices such as MIDI keyboards and controllers, audio inputs for instruments and vocals and various controllers that can turn your phone or tablet into a serious music-making machine.

Connect a USB storage drive

You can connect to storage devices such as USB sticks or external hard drives 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 phone. Alternatively, you can use it as a non-cloud based backup storage option for your photos, music, and other files from your smartphone.

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Connect a memory stick directly to your smartphone. / © ANDROIDPIT

Connect a game controller

Enjoy mobile gaming but yearn for a bit more control? Why not connect a gamepad to your smartphone? Using a wired Xbox 360 controller is an easy way to do this: just connect it to your phone with a USB OTG cable, launch a game and it should work right away, no configuration required.

What is your favorite use for USB OTG? Let us know in the comments.

100 comments

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  • Galera to com dificuldade em conectar meu controle xbox no meu smartfone J3. Ja baixei os app joystick center e o joy2touch so que quando aperto no botao j>t da erro dev/uinput como se nao conseguisse acessar a pasta. JA tentei resolver com o selinux mais nao obtive sucesso.

  • If someone could help that would be great. My Note 4 is locked and pin protected. My lcd screen doesn't work. I read a thread on another website saying he bought an usb otg cable and plugged it into a keyboard and his phone and allowed him to use his keyboard to enter his pin to unlock the phone then used Kies 3 to back it up. Is this actually possible? If I buy it, can I plug it into my computer and locked cell phone w a black screen and unlock my phone? Where would it tell me to enter the pin to unlock my phone? I need both audio and pictures off my phone.

    I have since figured out how to unlocked my cell. I had it registered through Samsung's Find my phone app, which unlocked my phone and allowed apps on my pc to back it up

    • Actually if the lcd is broken... stylus might be still working. You can use a usb to hdmi adapter to show content on a monitor or tv and use the stylus even above a destroyed lcd to unlock it.

  • Thanks, I've used for a thumb drive but wasn't aware it would work for a mouse or keyboard. I was able to use the same micro to USB adapter for a wireless mouse radio and voila. Will want to play with whether it works editing in various apps.

  • I bought one to plug a mouse into my android phone because my screen was cracked. I couldn't enter my password and get into my phone without that mouse. I'll be waiting 5 days until a new phone Is shipped out. What a little life saver the OTG adapter is!

  • i have been usisng my USB storage for a while now. i have a note 3 with an internal SD card. I hardly ever use the SD anymore I prefer my USB storage device I even run with it for the music. its so convenient to have all your files readily available across all device. In ny opinion its the way to go and the chances that you will loose the phone and the USB at the same time are less.

  • Very simple - I use otg to quickly send pictures from my camera (via an sd-card), without the need to bring my computer on the move.

    • Same here my friend it had been so convient being I haven't had a computer available majority of the time. Yes best thing I've found it useful for

  • Hi. I bought from Amazon an HDMI connection kit (hdtv adapter and otg card reader) to access my Samsung Galaxy S3 broken and locked phone. I can see the phone screen on my TV but the mouse is not working. So I'm still unable to unlock the phone. Any idea? THX

  • Vineeth 2 months ago Link to comment

    If i buy an TAB with OTG support will i be able to connect TAB to LCD tv using HDMI.Please reply

  • I am trying to learn about Otg, and how to hook up an inspection camera.
    Bought two off Amazon , neither of the Qr codes worked to load app.

    My phone is verified as having OTG. Loaded a app. My phone is a Samsung Sm s765c
    Straight talk.
    I loaded camerafi and other apps
    None detect device

    So do I have a host problem.?

    Been trying to undestand what root and debug do. Do I have to go in my phone and enable something.

    • Try another app. I have tried 3 apps for my Endoscope camera. The one that I am using right now, is the one that works best for me, considering pros and cons compared to the price of buying thr "Pro" version of the apps.

  • Great..working well on my Xiaomi Redmi Note

  • Hi, I have a san disks otg usb flash drive 32g but my samsung galaxy tab a doesn't detect the drive. I also used otg cable for my external hard disk 1tb also cannot detect. Is that any problem?

    • I have the same tablet and flashdrive but they are working well... Have you unlocked your tablet or try other cables/flash drives?

    • Rhonda 3 months ago Link to comment

      I have the same OTG Flash drive and the same problem with my Galaxy S6.

    • I've experienced this as well o had to download a differnt file manager Try "ES-file Explorer. Sometimes it takes a couple toys to get it to pick it up for some things but should help

  • andycw 6 months ago Link to comment

    How many devices can be connected through a usb hub with usb otg? Could there be an instant desktop setup if you can connect alltogether portable usb monitor, keyboard mouse, midipianokeyboard, printer and usb external harddisc to an android flagship?

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