Regardless of whether you use your Android smartphone as a game console, multimedia server, or camera, most of us may need to connect it to external peripherals such as hard drives, USB sticks, or even a keyboard / mouse at some point. For most of these features to work, your smartphone must support a standard called USB OTG. In this article, we are going to explain how to use USB OTG on your Android device.
In case you didn’t know, the USB OTG standard has been around for a while. As a USB standard, your smartphone can be connected to several peripheral devices. Over the years, USB OTG has been used for a variety of purposes, such as: E.g. for flashing ROMs stored on a USB drive or even trying to connect external hard drives to your smartphone.
USB OTG can also be used to connect accessories such as mice and a keyboard to your phone. This can be useful in scenarios where your screen has stopped responding and you may need to plug your phone into an external display.
Is your smartphone USB OTG compatible?
To connect a hard drive or USB stick to an Android tablet or device, the USB must be OTG (On The Go) compatible. But how do you know if it’s compatible? It’s easy, just check the manufacturer’s website or the box of your device.
If your smartphone is really old, if you no longer have the box, or if you’re not sure about the model number, you can use a USB OTG Checker app. However, USB OTG has been natively present on Android since Honeycomb (3.1), so it is more than likely that your device is already compatible.
The app that Nextpit recommends for checking USB OTG support is called the USB OTG Checker. It’s a free app that you can download from the Google Play Store
A word about the performance of larger capacity drives
When you connect an external hard drive to your laptop or PC, the drive itself is powered by your computer. Same goes when you connect your storage to your Android phone. However, most smartphones are incapable of using as much power as a computer, and this can cause problems.
Most smartphones can only deliver around 0.5A of current. When your external drive needs more, it just won’t work. Hard drives require a little more juice at startup. This is due to the engine inside. If you find your 1TB drive still disconnecting, this is likely your problem.
You can solve this problem by adding an additional power source. You will need an adapter that will allow you to connect a power bank as well as connect to your device. If you do, you shouldn’t have any problems connecting your external storage to your Android smartphone. Just make sure to plug in the power bank and phone first and then the external drive last.
Advantages and disadvantages of USB OTG
You may already know USB OTG without knowing its name. Every time you connect a keyboard or mouse to your Android smartphone, you are using OTG technology. Connecting a hard drive to your smartphone is no more complicated than connecting a mouse. However, there are a few conditions to ensure that your external drive is recognized.
Any USB compatible device can be used as long as no external power supply is required. Your storage device (hard drive or USB stick) must also be in FAT32 format. NTFS media are not recognized. Of course, if your hard drive / key is not in this format, you can format it and put it in FAT32. However, all data will be lost before reformatting. Therefore, save them in a different location beforehand.
Buy an OTG USB cable
Once you’ve determined that your device is OTG compatible, you can go ahead and go to your preferred store and purchase a USB OTG cable. Try to buy a good quality OTG cable. It’s always a good idea to read some of the reviews before buying one online. Beware of cheap quality products and avoid them as much as possible.
Ideally, you should opt for an angled cable like the one shown in the image below. Note that you should also pay attention to the type of USB cable when purchasing: If your phone uses a USB Type-C port, the OTG cable should also be on the same type.
Connect your USB drive or accessories to your tablet
Connecting a USB drive or even a portable hard drive is very easy. Connect the OTG cable to your smartphone and connect the flash drive or hard drive to the other end. With hard drives, most phones should have no problem recognizing them. If you run into problems, it could be because the phone is not providing enough power to the drive. In such scenarios, try the power bank technique mentioned above and try again.
Just use a file explorer to manage files on the hard drive or USB stick connected to your smartphone. When the device is connected, a new folder will appear. It’s commonly called USBDriveA, but this may vary depending on the phone you’re using. You may also be asked for one-time permission to access the hard drive.
If you have trouble finding it, just tap the forward slash (“https://www.nextpit.com/”) to return to the root directory of your smartphone. What is the difference to a cloud, you could say? For one, no internet connection is required.
What other things can I do with USB OTG?
Connect a mouse or keyboard
This is one of the most typical ways to use USB OTG. You can pair your smartphone or tablet with peripheral devices such as a mouse or keyboard that you can then use to control it. There are some limitations – for example, gaming mice with a billion buttons may not be fully compatible – but for the most part, the basic operations are enabled.
Just plug in a USB mouse and you will automatically see the cursor appear on your display. It’s also a great way to use your device if the touchscreen is broken. Alternatively, you can connect an external keyboard to turn a tablet into a laptop.
Connect a MIDI keyboard
If you want to make music on Android, USB OTG lets you connect devices such as MIDI keyboards and controllers, audio inputs for instruments and vocals, and various controllers that can turn your phone or tablet into a serious music device.
Connect a game controller
Do you enjoy mobile gaming but are you longing for a little more control? Why don’t you connect a gamepad to your smartphone? Using an Xbox 360 wired controller is an easy way: just plug it into your phone with a USB OTG cable, start a game, and it should work out of the box with no configuration required.
What’s your favorite application for USB OTG? Let us know in the comments.