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USB OTG: Everything you need to know

USB OTG lets you connect flash drives, keyboards, controllers, and more to your smartphone. Here's what you need to know!

Published onNovember 26, 2020

Gadget makers are trying to move towards a semblance of universal compatibility with USB-C. However, there’s still a mess of USB cables to deal with for now. Not every device works with another, even if it has the right ports. USB OTG, or USB On-the-go, is one feature that helps make our smartphones even more capable. Here’s everything you need to know!

What is USB OTG?

USB OTG is a specification for devices like smartphones and tablets. A compatible phone can act as a “host” and lets you use it with other USB devices like flash drives, keyboards, mice, and more. A USB OTG adapter is basically a microUSB or USB-C cable that runs to a female USB port and lets you plug a slew of peripherals into your phone or tablet.

Does my smartphone support USB OTG?

usb otg adapter 3
Ankit Banerjee / Android Authority

Most current Android smartphones support USB OTG. If you aren’t sure, download the USB OTG Checker app and run it. The simple and easy-to-use application will instantly tell you whether your device is compatible with this feature.

A few peripherals, like flash drives, come with a USB-C end and can be plugged into a phone or tablet directly. However, more often than not, you will need a USB OTG cable or adapter. There are plenty of options to consider, but we recommend the Amazon Basics USB OTG cable or the Anker USB-C adapter.

What can USB OTG be used for?

usb otg adapter 2
Ankit Banerjee / Android Authority

External storage

USB OTG lets you quickly and easily transfer files, photos, and other information from a smartphone or tablet to a flash drive. Nowadays, there are plenty of USB-C flash drives that can plug into a phone’s charging port directly, like these great options from Sandisk and Silicon Power. If you have a regular flash drive already, however, a USB OTG adapter is all you need.

See also: The best USB flash drives you can get

Of course, flash drives aren’t your only option for expandable storage. Even if your phone doesn’t come with a microSD card slot, you can plug an SD card reader into the phone. This is also a great way to move files from a digital camera to a phone for editing on the go. Anker has both a standard SD card reader and a USB-C variant that can be plugged directly into the phone. Don’t forget to check out our roundup of the best microSD cards you can get as well!

Gaming controllers

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra GameCube Emulation with Xbox Controller in One Hand

Current Android phones are compatible with various Bluetooth gaming controllers, including the excellent Xbox One wireless controller. If your phone supports USB OTG, however, you can use wired options like the always reliable Xbox 360 controller. Of course, the games you play need to have controller support as well.

USB microphones

blue microphones yeti x obverse
Ankit Banerjee / Android Authority

If you’re looking to capture high-quality audio recordings on your phone, a good USB mic will do the trick. With the right adapter, options like the Blue Yeti X and the ultra-portable Samson Go are great mics to pick. However, something to keep in mind is that the mic may not work on a system level, and you might need to download an audio recording app from the Google Play Store.

Keyboards and mice

Night Keyboard Typing Coding
Adam Sinicki / Android Authority

Apart from Bluetooth keyboards and mice, you can use wired options or devices that require a wireless receiver with your smartphone or tablet because of USB OTG. You’ll find our recommendations in our comprehensive roundup of the best keyboards you can get.

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