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3 min read 2,117 Shares 105 comments

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.

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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.

105 comments

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  • Hi, I have managed to see the USB device contents connected to my Galaxy S2 where the total commander is installed.
    My question now is how to transfer data from the S2 to the USB device.
    Important to know: USB device volume information on top of the total commander: "[NTFS] (Readonly)..."
    So it looks like it wouldn't be possible to paste data on the USB device because it's not writable.

    And on the other hand you obviously can't copy folders on S2 (or other android phones), so you have to check all files in that folder separately (about 1000 in my case)...

    And when I click on a folder in Total Commander then the folder is checked and I can copy that folder to the clipboard
    but there's no "paste" under my "My Files" in order to transfer the data onto my S2.

  • If only it were that easy. Many devices that appear to have OTG support for things such as removable storage are utterly useless with respect to keyboards and mice. Some work, some don't. It is a very "hit or miss" proposition. I have kit kat devices where it works perfectly and marshmallow devices where nothing works. Much of the effectiveness of OTG seems to hinge on the vendor providing the Android build.

    • Patsy 4 months ago Link to comment

      so, can I try this cable and see if it works? Could something blow up if I do? ;-) Can I use another cable to connect the tablet with the computer? The one that connects my camera to the computer (if the connection fits properly)? (don't understand your kitkat and marshmallow references!!) thanks,,,,,

  • Patsy 4 months ago Link to comment

    I got myself a $40 fire tablet from amazon. An icon, "photo importer" says "To import photos and videos from your camera, connect it with an OTG cable." Think I could plug it into my computer? To transfer one picture at a time ?

  • 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

    • pat m 1 month ago Link to comment

      CAN you use an mhl / USBtoHDMI adapter and OTG at the same time? My screen and touch access don't seem to work. I would like to be able to send touch commands to the screen to unlock it.

      From what it sounds like, mhl requires a special HDMI port on the receiving end, and special USB port on the phone end. Samsung s5 has it, but the 6 & 7 don't. And as far as I can tell, none of my home tv's support MHL. Unless their is a way/cable to send strait HDMI to the TV, and let the OTG send the control back

  • Vineeth 7 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

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