USB drives are convenient, but you can’t use one with your phone. Well, unless you have an Android phone and know what USB OTG means.
USB On-The-Go (OTG) is a standardized specification that allows a device to read data from a USB device without requiring a PC. With an OTG cable, the device itself becomes the USB host.
You can do a lot over an OTG connection, like connecting a USB flash drive or a video game controller to your phone. Here, we’ll show you some cool ways to use it with an Android device.
Check If Your Android Supports USB OTG
The easiest way to see if your phone or tablet supports USB OTG is to look at the box it came in or the manufacturer’s website. You’ll see a logo like the one above or USB OTG listed in the specifications. You may also be able to find USB OTG information in the device’s settings.
Another easy method is to use a USB OTG Checker app. It will quickly tell you whether the device has USB OTG functionality and which features will work for you.
Samsung and other smartphones have OTG enabled out of the box. However, other manufacturers may require you to enable it manually from Settings > Additional Settings > OTG.
What Do You Need to Use USB OTG?
Your Android device has a standard micro-USB or USB-C port. However, many USB devices require a full-size USB port. You can resolve that with a converter/adapter.
Specifically, look for a micro-USB or USB-C (depending on your phone) OTG adapter. You can find many such adapters on Amazon, like the popular JSAUX USB C to USB adapter.
It’s also possible to buy flash drives with either micro-USB or USB Type-C and standard USB ports, like the super popular SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive Go USB Type-C.
Once you’re ready with USB OTG for your Android device, a world of opportunities opens up. Here are some of the most popular uses.
1. Connect Flash Drives and External Hard Drives
Unsurprisingly, external storage is at the top of this list. Just plug in your drive, and within a few seconds, you’ll be able to transfer all kinds of files.
Flash drives are the easiest to connect; external hard drives may or may not work. Portable hard drives that draw power from the phone won’t always work, but external drives with their own power source should work just fine. You’ll need these drives to be in FAT32 or exFAT file format.
If you don’t want to get into the hassle of transferring the media, you can directly play music or videos from your OTG storage drive connected to your Android device.
2. Play With Video Game Controllers
Android P and newer natively support the Xbox One controller. But the older Xbox 360 controller also works with Android devices via USB OTG. It’s as simple as plug-and-play to start gaming with a controller. Of course, you need to play games that are compatible with a controller.
If you have rooted your Android device, you can also connect PlayStation controllers. For instance, you can hook up a PS2 controller and turn your Android device into a retro gaming hub.
3. Control Android With Keyboard and Mouse
If you want to use your Android tablet as a laptop, a keyboard and mouse are integral to the experience. You’ll be happy to know that Android works well with most wireless and wired keyboards and mice.
We recommend getting a wireless keyboard and mouse set with a unified receiver since you only have one available USB connection. We haven’t seen a functional USB hub working over USB OTG.
You should buy a standard plug-and-play wireless set compatible with all platforms. However, make sure you don’t buy something that needs accompanying software, like some Logitech devices that require the SetPoint software.
As noted in our detailed guide to connecting a USB keyboard to Android devices, the OS defaults to QWERTY. You’ll need a special keyboard app for other layouts, like Colemak Mod-DH or DVORAK.
4. Print Directly From a Printer
Much like keyboards, printers with a standard plug-and-play USB work well with Android devices. These let you start printing without requiring a wireless connection or having to transfer anything to a PC first.
Android has depreciated the support of USB Mass Storage mode since Android 4.0. If you want to print photos and documents, you’ll need to use the PTP or MTP modes for your USB connection. However, we’ll recommend you to use wireless printers for two reasons:
- Most brands, including Canon, Epson, and HP printers, have their proprietary applications that will install the drivers to enable you to print directly.
- They allow on-the-go printing without needing an ethernet cable or USB OTG cables.
If you still own a USB-based printer, read our guide on printing documents or photos from an Android phone.
5. Control Your DSLR Camera
Photographers will love this one. You can wire your Android device up to your DSLR camera and turn it into a giant live screen, complete with the ability to capture, focus, control shutter speed, and much more.
There are many DSLR controller apps in the Play Store, but it’s vital to check the list of cameras they support before you install them. Some of the popular ones are Helicon Remote and Camera Connect and Control, compatible with several Canon and Nikon models.
6. Directly Transfer Photos From DSLR to Android Phone
If you want to move photos from your digital camera to your Android, you can do it without using your laptop or SD card reader via an OTG connection. You will need a USB cable that connects to your camera and the OTG adapter.
Once connected, you can import all the photos from your camera to your Android phone. It is a handy feature if you edit photos on your phone or want to share uncompressed images via email.
7. Connect and Play Music Instruments
USB OTG enables you to connect MIDI-compatible music instruments such as keyboards to your Android device. Combine the two with a decent music app, and you can create music on your handheld device on the go.
While an Android phone can power smaller MIDI keyboards, some may require an external power source. Also, check the type of connection supported by your keyboard and see if it requires an additional adapter to work with your OTG adapter.
8. Record Audio Directly to Your Phone
Apart from the musical instruments, you can record audio from a USB mic to your Android phone via OTG. Whether you use your phone casually or as a workstation, USB microphones offer better recording capabilities than the built-in or external mics connected via a 3.5mm audio jack.
Although your Android phone comes with a built-in voice recorder, it is pretty basic. For a dedicated mic, apps like USB Audio Recorder Pro offer more customization options, including stereo playback, custom sample rate, buffer size selection, and even recording format options.
9. Connect and Access the Internet via Ethernet Cable
A lesser-known OTG function is its ability to connect your Ethernet cable to an Android phone for internet access. This can come in handy if you want to reduce ping while gaming online or get better internet speed than your Wi-Fi.
Apart from an OTG adapter, you would also need an Ethernet to USB adapter such as the QGeeM USB-C to Ethernet adapter to make this work.
Ethernet via an OTG connection may not be available on all smartphones. Make sure your phone supports this feature before attempting.
10. Reverse Charge Your Android Phone
Many modern smartphones support reverse wireless charging by placing it on the glass back of a supported smartphone. However, if your phone doesn’t support this feature, you can instead use an OTG adapter to reverse-charge your device.
To reverse charge, plug in the OTG cable to the phone that will act as a power source. Then, connect your phone you want to charge to the OTG port via USB cable. While the charging is slow, it should help if your primary device runs out of juice and you don’t have access to a power source.
Know Everything About USB Debugging
Learning about USB OTG and its many uses opens up a host of new tricks for Android devices. In fact, if you have an old Android tablet or phone lying around, one of the USB OTG applications above can give it a new lease of life.
Apart from OTG, there’s another USB feature on Android that you should know about. If you aren’t aware, read up on Android USB debugging and why it’s awesome.