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USB OTG: What is it and what can I do with it?

Update: New tips for USB OTG added

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 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. 

androidpit usb otg hero2
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.

 

androidpit usb otg hero1
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.

USB OTG cable
$2-7
Amazon
AndroidPIT usb on the go 8596
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.

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.

85 comments

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  • 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.

  • Great..working well on my Xiaomi Redmi Note

  • Hi, I have a san disks otg usb flash drive 32g but my samsung galaxy tab a doesn't detect the drive. I also used otg cable for my external hard disk 1tb also cannot detect. Is that any problem?

    • I have the same tablet and flashdrive but they are working well... Have you unlocked your tablet or try other cables/flash drives?

  • andycw 1 month ago Link to comment

    How many devices can be connected through a usb hub with usb otg? Could there be an instant desktop setup if you can connect alltogether portable usb monitor, keyboard mouse, midipianokeyboard, printer and usb external harddisc to an android flagship?

  • Great function. You look like Jon Snow btw

  • Dwarfer66 2 months ago Link to comment

    I bought one for my then Galaxy S4 off ebay for $1.89AU, works great on my Tab S and my S6 Edge. I don't use it very often but I know it works and is great to have.

  • Hello
    I wish to charge my Samsung Note 5 while watching a film ran from memory stick. Although the connection is possible with OTG cable (uUSB male connected to Note 5, uUSB female connected to the charger and the USB female connected the memory stick), there no charging. How this can solved?
    Thanks,
    IR

  • When I connect the mini endoscope on my Doogee Valencia Y100 the recommended camera shows up, all functions look normal, but the screen stays black! No picture!
    What's wrong, please?

  • 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

  • david316 6 months ago Link to comment

    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

    • Just Me 4 months ago Link to comment

      Nice commercial...
      You posted your comment 2 months ago and while the Samsung Galaxy S7 was only released 6 days ago, you already had one and you were buying fashionable affordable accessories for it?

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

    • Just Me 4 months ago Link to comment

      Yuppp... It can also assist plumbers, car mechanics and individuals who work in pest control too... Hahaaa

  • 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?

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