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. The device basically becomes a USB host, which isn’t an ability every gadget has. You will need an OTG cable or OTG connector.
You can do a lot with this, For example, you might connect a USB flash drive to your phone, or use a video game controller with an Android device.
USB OTG is not an Android-specific feature. But since that’s its most popular use, we’ll focus on using it with Android.
Check If Your Android Supports USB OTG
The easiest way to check 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.
Another easy method is to use a USB OTG checker app. There are plenty of such free apps on the Google Play Store, but some are loaded with ads. USB OTG Checker is a reliable app for this. Download and run it, and you’ll know if your phone supports USB OTG.
Not every Android device supports USB OTG; it’s something the manufacturer has to enable. If you find out your phone isn’t compatible when you use USB OTG Checker, this unfortunately won’t 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 You Need to Use USB OTG
Your Android device has a standard micro-USB or USB-C port (see our guide to USB cables). 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 what your phone uses) male to full-size USB female adapter—those male and female designations are essential. Amazon carries many such adapters, like the popular Anker USB-C to USB adapter.
It’s also possible to buy flash drives with both micro-USB and standard USB ports, like the super useful Kingston Micro Duo. It doesn’t cost much more than a regular USB drive either, so it’s a pretty sound purchase.
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 a drive in, and you’ll be ready to go. You can then 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 format, as NTFS doesn’t work properly with Android.
Additionally, if you don’t want to get into the hassle of transferring the media, then 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. With this, you could connect a PS2 controller and turn your Android device into a retro gaming hub!
3. Control Android With Keyboard and Mouse
Android’s open nature makes it easy to connect just about anything. If you want to use your tablet as a laptop, a keyboard and mouse is 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. I haven’t seen a functional USB hub working over USB OTG.
You should buy a standard plug-and-play wireless set that is compatible with all platforms. However, make sure you don’t buy something that requires 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 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 hasn’t supported USB Mass Storage mode for some time. Thus, if you want to print photos and documents, you’ll need to use the PTP or MTP modes for your USB connection.
Of course, it’s easier if your printer has Wi-Fi support. If it doesn’t, it might be time to upgrade to one of the best printers for homes and small offices.
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.
You will need the DSLR Controller app, and ideally a Canon camera. It works with some Nikon and Sony cameras, but they aren’t officially supported. It’s a hefty $8 for the app, but quite useful for enthusiastic DSLR owners.
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 OTG. You will need a USB cable that connects to your camera and then to 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 smaller MIDI keyboards can be powered by an Android phone, some may require an external power source. Also, check the type of connection supported by your keyboard and 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 as a workstation or just a hobbyist, USB microphones such as the useful CAD Audio 37 offer better recording capabilities than the built-in or external mics connected via a 3.5mm audio jack.
Your Android phone comes with a built-in voice recorder, but it is pretty basic. For a dedicated mic, apps like USB Audio Recorder Pro offer more customization options, including stereo playback, custom sample rate and 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 connection to an Android phone for internet access. This can come in handy if you want to reduce ping during online gameplay 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.
Note: Ethernet connection via OTG feature may not be available on all smartphones. Make sure your phone supports this feature before attempting.
10. Reverse Charge Your Phone Android Phone
Many modern smartphones support reverse wireless charging, where you can charge a QI-compatible smartphone by placing it on the glass back of a supported smartphone. However, if your phone doesn’t support this feature, you can use an OTG adapter to reverse-charge your device instead.
To reverse-charge, connect 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.
The Other Big Android USB
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 about it already, read up on Android USB debugging and why it’s awesome.
What is USB Debugging in Android? Learn what this important feature does and how to enable it on your device.
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