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USB OTG: What it is and how to use it

Authored by: Sterling Keys — 3 weeks ago

Sometimes the most useful things have the dullest names, and that's definitely the case with USB OTG: it's in stacks of devices, including the Nexus 5, it can do some really clever things and many people have never heard of it. If you don't know your OTG from your OMG, let's discover what it is and why it's so great.

usb otg 2
This little cable can do a lot, including connecting to all kinds of useful devices.  / © AndroidPIT

What is OTG?

OTG is short for On The Go and USB OTG is a standard that enables devices to talk to one another. For example, instead of connecting to a PC to transfer files, USB OTG enables devices to connect directly and swap stuff; instead of sending your photos to your printer via your PC, you can connect directly do it, and so on.

That's not all USB OTG can do, though. 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 add additional hardware, such as storage, keyboards or even musical instruments. 

USB OTG has its own logo, shown below, which will be on your device's packaging if it's supported. If you don't have the original packaging to hand, it's easy to find out if your phone supports the standard: just Google the device name plus 'OTG' or 'USB host', or download the free USB Host Diagnostic app from Google Play. 

usb otg logo
If you see this logo on your device's packaging, it's USB OTG capable.

How can you use OTG on your smartphone or tablet?

If your device is OTG compatible, you’ll also need a suitable OTG cable for your device. You can grab one for a few bucks from a few online portals, including Amazon.com. To connect storage devices such as a USB flash drive or a hard drive, you may also need an app such as USB Host Controller or Total Commander.

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

What can I do with USB OTG?

When you know how to use USB OTG it's possible to couple your smartphone or tablet with peripheral devices that can be made to control it, like mice or a keyboard. 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, and that means it's easy to turn, say, a tablet into a laptop by sticking an external keyboard into it.

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.

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.

Which devices support USB OTG?

Android has supported USB OTG since version 3.1, but the standard wasn't always supported by manufacturers. Now, though, USB OTG support is widespread. If your phone is one of the ones listed below, or a more recent model, then it'll almost certainly support USB OTG.

  • 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

Are you connecting anything exciting via USB OTG? Let us know in the comments.

From all the way over on Vancouver Island, Sterling Keys started off his smartphone adventure with an HTC S710 equipped with Windows Mobile and knew there had to be something better. Over the next few years, and countless different operating systems, he has finally found his home on Android.

33 comments

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  • jerry ericksen 3 weeks ago Link to comment

    Ran the Diagnosis on my Moto G 1.... not supported.

  • Dwarfer66 3 weeks ago Link to comment

    I have used it on my old S4, my sons S5, my new S6 edge and Tab S, all works great.

    And it only cost me $1.88AU on ebay.

  • Seong-il Kim 3 weeks ago Link to comment

    You can connect USB cameras with camerafi app.

    ;-)

  • Craig Lewis 3 weeks ago Link to comment

    I have a Samsung Galaxy S4, and I use the USB OTG quite often. However, whenever I am also using the Mophie Juice Pack (a case with an extra battery within), I have to remove the S4 from the case in order to use the USB port. Why is this?

  • Glenni Bengtsson 3 weeks ago Link to comment

    I connect my Samsung tab s to my DAC for playing spotify

  • Pavle 1 month ago Link to comment

    How to use OTG cable on S3 Neo I9301I ???

  • Pol Gotham 1 month ago Link to comment

    i'm using Zenphone 5..like watching all my downloads with it but the problem is that the battery drains so fast (down side of Zenphone 5) Is there a double headed OTG cable where It can read my USB flash drive and charge at the same time??

  • Joannie Balsoogrim 2 months ago Link to comment

    Nothing happens when i connect my OTG cable to my smartphone Blu Studio X, it works perfectly fine with my Astro Tab. Please help.

  • Louvenjun Balantac 3 months ago Link to comment

    Does USB OTG also compatible with local smartphone and tablet??

  • Eda Farsky 4 months ago Link to comment

    Hallo, it is interesting.This is very simple solution:

    https: //youtu.be/08HJKECVY-Y

    :-)

  • yana 5 months ago Link to comment

    Is Samsung Tab 7.7 compatible with OTG cable?
    If compatible, can my OTG cable work as battery charger when connected to another USB for my tablet?

  • Peter Dreyer 6 months ago Link to comment

    A problem I have experienced is that it is very difficult to OTG phones and tablet that can charge while using OTG, since they use the mini-USB for charging. In my case I use OTG to receive data from an external sensor 24x7. The solution I have found is an Point-of-view tablet with mini-USB and separate DC charging socket. But for industrial applications I would like a better (less discount type) tablet. Any suggestions...?

  • karan4official 6 months ago Link to comment

    Wao i found it best price at amazon : amazon.in/gp/product/B00GTADSXQ/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=3626&creative=24822&creativeASIN=B00GTADSXQ&linkCode=as2&tag=onlineservi0f-21&linkId=DM5DNTGGK7OAUBFK

  • Graeme Woodward 6 months ago Link to comment

    Fabulous! This article helped me get OTG working on the Sony Xperia Go (ST27a). It couldn't be easier.

    A OTG adaptor (Pudney Micro to USB A Socket, $10 from local electronics store) plus Total Commander, free from Google Play, and it worked blindingly easy. I can now connect external USB flash drives and synchronise exercise data onto Strava from my Garmin Edge 500 cycle computer.

    Brilliant!

  • Jimmy LightspeeD 7 months ago Link to comment

    note 4 should have it? The article didnt mention it except the note 1,2 & 3

  • T. Hurd 7 months ago Link to comment

    Correction: www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005GGBYJ4/ (posted a link to a controller by mistake)

  • T. Hurd 7 months ago Link to comment

    Be careful with cheap OTG cables. One I got on Ebay fried my phone (S4). I use these from Amazon and have fund they're very solid.

  • Lina Akriv 7 months ago Link to comment

    My mobile is samsung galaxy express 2. Does it support otg? My tablet is samsung galaxy tab 4 SM-T230. Does it support otg? I failed when I tried to connect a keyboard or a memory stick. And... where can I find that logo of usb otg?

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