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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.