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USB OTG: What it is and how to use it

Authored by: Scott Adam Gordon — 2 months 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, it can do some really clever things, but many people have never heard of it. To help bring you up to speed, here's our guide USB OTG to tell you what it is and how you can use it. 

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

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 device. 

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

USB OTG has its own logo (seen above), which will 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. However, 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 for your device. You can grab one for a few bucks from the likes of Amazon.com.

androidpit usb otg 2
There are a vast number of possibilities for USB OTG. 

What can I do with USB OTG?

By using 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. This means it's easy to turn a tablet into a laptop by sticking an external keyboard into it, for example.

You can even 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 device. Alternatively, you can use it as a non-cloud based backup storage option for 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.

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

Originally from the UK, Scott graduated in Popular Music Studies at Newcastle University and attributes most of his success there to his beloved Samsung Galaxy S2. A dedicated Android fan, Scott has never owned an Apple device, of any kind, and doesn't see this changing anytime soon.

65 comments

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  • Is it possible to plug your tablet into your computer with a normal cable and direct that to another port with a mouse plugged in?

  • I have purchased a USB 2.0 On the Go cable for my Galaxy Tab A 9.7 ( SM-T550 ) It accepts a USB Flash Drive.The thumbnails for the videos and photos appear.It plays the videos ok.It shows a photo ok but it does not appear to let you scroll to the next photo in the album.Does anybody have any views or comments about this function ?

    • I have now found the answer to this problem.Have just installed the ES File Explorer and it works a dream.

  • magic

  • LOL,appreciated to your really pretty professional and detailed comprehensive review about usb otg cable,we really learn a lot and know what it is and how to properly choose one preferred.
    I also found a pretty useful article from blog.onu-mall.com/?cat=99 filled with tons of practical information about how to properly pick up USB peripherals preferred and i also surprised by the huge collections of various USB cables and power banks from www.onu-mall.com/, i bought a really fashionable affordable USB OTG cable for my samsung galaxy S7

  • Samsung S3 and USB endoscope could assist medical intubation. Google "smartphone endoscopy via OTG"

  • Can i connect a OTG smartphone with a monitor (VGA port) or a projector (VGA as well) so as to work as a mini pc?

  • I want to buy the mini android endoscope will it work on my S6

  • Haidar 2 months ago Link to comment

    Is there are any application which support usb otg hosting? my Android doesn't support otg

    • storm 2 months ago Link to comment

      Most of them need root if your phone doesn't support it out of the box. Another problem with some phones is they don't have the full output voltage to offer full OTG support. In those cases, you may need a Y OTG cable. The Y offers another USB connection for power from another USB port. Not a great solution, but useful at times.

  • storm 2 months ago Link to comment

    Now if we could only make MHL or mini display port a popular standard too.

  • I have Apple 4S , can I use this OTG? How? Pl reply.

    • storm 2 months ago Link to comment

      No Apple doesn't do this. They also stopped using USB ports on the phones which was a user hostile decision.

  • www . youtube . com/watch?v=Dth5FrLqi5s ejemplo de us ode OTG

  • Ross R 2 months ago Link to comment

    Using an OTG Cable, we have connected an IMI Onyx Geiger Counter to both our Nexus 7 and our Amazon Fire tablets to display and share radiation data around the world.

  • I have Samsung Galaxy Grand Max SM-G7202 will otg work for this device I mean can I connect Pen drive to this device

    • sir the answer is actually on the article, you just need to read. "-.-

      How do I know if my Android device supports USB OTG?
      USB OTG has its own logo (seen above), which will 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. However, if your smartphone was released within the last two years, you can almost guarantee it will support it.

  • Does usb otg wprk on samsung galaxy light?

  • I have lenovo yoga 2 , which it support otg , but can it afford an external dwd-rom player?

  • I have Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 SM-T535 will otg work for this device I mean can I connect mouse,keyboard and joystick to this device

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