What is USB OTG and what can you use it for? Features and use cases!


If you have an Android smartphone or tablet, you can do a lot more than you can imagine. You can connect game controllers to play your favorite titles, either locally or through Project xCloud or other similar cloud gaming platforms. You can even connect peripherals like a full-fledged keyboard and mouse and use your device as a computer and work. While many accessories today are wireless and connect via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, you can also use your smartphone’s charging port to plug in wired accessories and peripherals. To do this, you use a technology called USB OTG or USB On-The-Go.

USB OTG is a specification built into the USB port that allows your device to act as a host and provide power to external devices connected to it. There are several use cases of OTG like some we have already mentioned. While only a select few smartphones supported OTG a few years ago, most modern phones, from more affordable to top rated smartphones, support OTG connections. Let’s see how OTG works, what are the good uses of OTG and how you can activate it on your smartphone.

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What is USB OTG?

As mentioned earlier, OTG stands for On-The-Go, which suggests that you can use your USB-powered accessories with your Android smartphone or tablet while you’re on the go. This is part of the USB 2.0 specification and essentially allows your smartphone’s charging port to function in a similar fashion to the USB-A port on your PC or laptop. Just like you can plug in USB sticks, keyboards, webcams, etc. to your computer, OTG allows you to use the same accessories on a portable device like a smartphone or tablet.

OTG connected to a phone

Any USB device can have two roles – Host and Apparatus. Usually, a gadget like a smartphone takes on the role of a peripheral device, i.e. if you connect a smartphone to a computer for example via USB, the computer is the host while the smartphone is the apparatus connected to the host. The host powers the external device, which in this case is a smartphone, and can transfer data to and from it.

With OTG, however, a smartphone can also behave like a host when you plug in external devices. This allows your smartphone to supply both power and data to the connected device.

Top 5 Uses of USB OTG

OTG can be used for many purposes, ranging from something as simple as connecting a flash drive to copy photos to connecting a dongle that allows you to plug in a LAN cable for super-fast internet access on your smartphone. Here are the best OTG use cases that can extend the functionality of your smartphone.

  • Connect USB drives, external hard drives or even an SSD to transfer data to and from your smartphone or tablet. With modern smartphones with fast UFS storage, copying large files like movies and games is just a matter of seconds if you connect an external SSD via OTG.

USB OTG stick connected to the phone

  • If you have a keyboard that you use with your computer or are looking to get the best mechanical keyboard for extended typing sessions, you can connect it via OTG to your smartphone and type articles or long emails. Especially if you have a foldable phone like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2, you can connect your keyboard and use the phone screen as a monitor while typing.
  • In addition to a keyboard, you can also connect a pointing device like a mouse or trackpad to reproduce a full PC-like experience. Android smartphones are powerful enough to perform most tasks and if you don’t have your computer with you when traveling, you can easily give presentations, type documents or even edit photos and videos on your Android smartphone and tablet. .
  • If you are an avid gamer and have a wired gamepad, you can also connect it via OTG to your smartphone and enjoy the game without your fingers blocking the view of your screen.

Controller connected via OTG

  • If you are excited about Apple’s announcement that Apple Music gets lossless sound and want to experience it on your smartphone, you can do so using an external DAC connected to your smartphone. via OTG. If you have a USB-A DAC, an OTG cable or dongle is all you need to connect it to your smartphone and enjoy crisp audio.

There are just a few of the common OTG use cases. You can plug in an external webcam for your online meetings, or even connect a DSLR camera if you feel like it. You can also charge other smartphones using OTG if your phone has a large battery.

Best USB OTG Cable To Buy

Depending on the type of port your Android smartphone or tablet has, you can get an OTG cable or dongle for quite a low price. While many modern devices and peripherals have USB-C connectors that can be plugged directly into your smartphone if your phone also has a USB-C port, some older gadgets may have USB-A connectors that must be plugged in. via an OTG USB-C to USB-A or micro-USB to USB-A cable.

Here are some options to consider.

    Amazon Basics USB-C OTG Cable
    This is a cheap but reliable USB-C OTG cable. Pretty good for most people.
    Anker USB-C OTG Cable
    Anker’s is of slightly better quality and is said to have better longevity.
    Ugreen MicroUSB OTG cable
    This one’s for those of you who have an older or entry-level phone with a micro-USB port.

Is OTG still relevant with the adoption of USB-C?

OTG with USB-C

OTG is still very relevant with the adoption of USB-C since it is the specification that allows you to connect external devices to your smartphone, even via USB-C. While a good number of external devices have moved to USB-C, some older devices or even some newer devices like hard drives, USB mice, and keyboards still come with USB-A connectors, therefore OTG remains responsible for connecting them to your smartphone.

How to enable OTG support on your Android phone

Nowadays, most of Android phones support OTG. However, for security reasons, it is disabled by default and must be enabled through the Settings menu. While the option to enable OTG is present in different places on different phones, the best way to find it would be by going to your phone’s Settings app and in the search bar, enter “OTG”. It should then display the option to activate it.

Note that if you do not use OTG for a set amount of time, the setting will automatically be disabled and you will need to enable it again to use it.

OTG Activate options

We hope you have answered all your questions about OTG and now is the time for you to start connecting and using external devices with your smartphone or tablet to expand its functionality. What else are you using OTG for outside of the use cases we’ve mentioned? Let us know in the comments below.

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