What Is USB OTG And What Does It Do

USB On-the-Go, usually called USB OTG or OTG, is a specification that lets some Android smartphones and tablets act as a USB host so that you can plug other USB peripherals, such as keyboards or flash drives, into them. Here’s more information about USB OTG, how to know if your device supports it, and how to use this handy functionality.

What Is USB OTG For?
You’ll see a USB OTG label on devices that can connect and control external USB peripherals or that connect to another device and act as a USB peripheral. According to USB.org, these devices achieve this functionality using a single USB port.

We usually think of USB connections as starting from a computer (the host) and linking to another device, usually a peripheral, such as a printer, mouse, keyboard, or USB flash drive. A device that supports USB OTG can function as the host or the peripheral.

Android smartphones are a popular USB OTG implementation. When you plug an Android smartphone into a computer, the computer is the host, and the phone acts as a peripheral. You’d likely use your computer to manage files on the phone.

If the Android phone is USB OTG-capable, you can also connect it to a USB flash drive. The phone would then serve as the host, able to control the peripheral flash drive.

Some USB OTG usage examples include transferring apps from one smartphone to another or attaching a mouse or keyboard to a tablet or smartphone.

Does Your Device Support USB OTG?
Many Android smartphones support USB OTG, including newer Samsung phones. But if you’re not sure, there are a few easy ways to find out if your device supports USB OTG.

Look for a Logo
USB OTG-capable devices often have a USB OTG logo on the product packaging. Check your manual, online resources, or original box, and see if the logo is there.

USB-IF USB OTG Checker Apps
If you don’t have the product packaging, download a free USB OTG checker app, such as USB OTG Checker, onto your Android device. These apps will quickly tell you whether your device has USB OTG functionality and which features will work for you.

Check Your Device Settings
You may also be able to find USB OTG information in the device’s settings. While this varies by device, it’s likely under the system settings or wherever the device lists USB settings.

How to Use the USB OTG Function
USB OTG functionality varies by device. For example, a USB OTG camera may be able to connect to a printer, but not an Xbox controller.

For many Android devices, there are many useful functions. To create laptop functionality with an Android tablet, use USB OTG to connect a USB hub and then a mouse and keyboard. You could even connect a video game controller. Support for such peripherals is handy for streaming video games with a service like Google Stadia.

Another example would be using USB OTG to connect USB flash drives or external hard drives to a phone or tablet, dramatically increasing the available storage. Some USB OTG connections even support USB 3.0 speeds.

Some external hard drives can plug directly into phones to serve as USB OTG storage, while other drives with a standard USB-A connector may require a USB OTG adapter.