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USB OTG: What it is and how to use it

Authored by: Sterling Keys — 3 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, 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 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.


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

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

  • Ross R 2 weeks 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

  • 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

  • You can connect USB cameras with "Webeecam Free" App.

  • I was wondering what the difference Is between an OTG cable and a regular micro USB charging/data transfer cable coupled with an adapter with 2 female ends. I can use the regular USB cable to swap data with my PC, so why doesn't it work the same way for a thumb drive?

    • Mark G. 1 month ago Link to comment

      The OTG cable is just an adapter to allow a full sized usb connection such as a USB stick or USB Game pad. If your phone doesn't have OTG capablty then using a usb stick won't work. You can still transfer data via a normal micro usb to a PC. I believe it has to do with how the device is powered. Without OTG on the phone then there is no power for the usb stick. Though the pc doesn't matter as it's self powered.

      I think thats right.

  • if i have it in my tab can i use 3G modem to have internet ????????????????????????????????????????

  • Mark G. 2 months ago Link to comment

    I have always used OTG first with the Galaxy S3 now I use it regularly with the excellent Galaxy S5.
    I use it with a MHL cable to use my tv as a Screen. I use a bluetooth keyboard and will connect a usb mouse for when I'm doing word processing (I don't need a PC anymore).
    I use USB stick to back up my data.

    Only problem was when I used a cheap OTG cable. It would be hit or miss.

    Only buy decent cables/USB peripherals /SD cards or run the risk of damaging your data or worse bricking your phone.

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

  • Dwarfer66 3 months 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.

  • You can connect USB cameras with camerafi app.


  • 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?

    • Mark G. 4 weeks ago Link to comment

      It has to do with how the otg device is powered. There are 2 modes otg mode and charging mode.

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

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