It was in 2011, with the arrival of Android 3.1 Honeycomb – the first and last version of Android intended exclusively for tablets – when Google’s operating system integrated native support for USB OTG . This technology, also known as USB On-The-Go, is an extension of USB 2.0, which allowed you to connect peripherals and other devices to a host device through its USB port.
Today, for many, what not many years ago was an exclusive feature of the most advanced phones, has become an essential in order to fully exploit the capabilities of an Android device, through storage units external, peripherals and many other devices that can be connected through the USB OTG system. But do you know everything that can be done with this technology? In this article we review some of its lesser known uses.
First of all, what is the USB OTG
As I indicated at the beginning, USB OTG was born as an extension of USB 2.0 itself. The goal was make certain devices, such as audio players or mobile phones, work as a host so that it was possible to connect other devices to them and to make it possible to transfer data between them.
In the first years, when the microUSB was the port that had 100% of the Android smartphones on the market, it was essential to have an adapter that allowed connecting the peripheral in question – usually with a USB port – to the connector of the smartphone itself. In some cases, even smartphone manufacturers included this accessory in the box of their phones, in order to make life easier for users. With the arrival of USB Type C , however, the need for this adapter has decreased significantly, thanks to the fact that both smartphones and peripherals can make use of this technology.
Find out if your mobile is compatible
In general, all Android smartphones launched from 2012 are compatible with USB OTG, given that the operating system supported this functionality a year earlier, with the arrival of Android 3.1. Therefore, if you have a relatively recent phone, it is virtually impossible that your device is not compatible with On-The-Go USB technology .
In Google Play there are applications that tell us whether or not a smartphone is compatible with USB OTG . However, most of them are only based on the version of Android running the device in question, and do not take into account its hardware, so they are rather useless.
Nowadays, one of the few utilities that do analyze in an exhaustive way if a device counts, or not with support for this characteristic, is “OTG?” . It is an extremely simple app, whose function is only to check if the operating system has the android.hardware.usb.host function , and show a result depending on each specific case.
9 ideas to use USB OTG on your mobile
Now that you know what the USB OTG is for , and that your mobile – probably – is compatible, it is time to see how to squeeze this technology to the fullest through peripherals and external devices that you can connect to your mobile. These are some of the uses you can give:
Connect a controller to play games
If you are one of those who do not enjoy mobile games because of the complexity of the touch controls, connecting an external controller through the USB OTG of the mobile can be a fantastic idea . Today, there are endless accessories of this type, which can be used to play the most famous titles on the mobile without touching the screen at any time.
In addition, usually the price of these controls is relatively low, and thanks to the fact that the OTG is spread among all brands and devices on the market, you can use it on any smartphone you have or plan to buy in the future.
Access data from your external hard drive
Although the internal storage of mobile phones continues to grow year after year, and microSD cards do not seem to disappear, sometimes it can be useful to access data stored on an external drive. Thanks to the OTG, it is possible to connect external hard drives or USB drives and access your data.
It is necessary to take into account, of course, that Android does not include native support for units with NTFS or exFAT format , and in these cases you will have to resort to applications such as Paragon. To avoid problems, it is best to format the drive in a file system compatible with Android, such as FAT32 or exFAT.
Level up the audio of your videos with an external microphone
The OTG can also be useful to exploit the multimedia capabilities of the phone. If you have a USB microphone for your computer, it is very likely that it is also compatible with your Android mobile . And if not, you can always buy a cheap one, which probably offers a better recording quality than the one included in the smartphone itself.
Connect an external keyboard and mouse
Using your mobile in a much more professional way, and perhaps even as a tool to work, is possible if you connect external peripherals such as a keyboard and a mouse . Both devices are compatible with the USB OTG system, and Android has native support for external keyboard and mouse input. One of them, of course, will have to be connected via Bluetooth – unless you have an Android smartphone with two USB ports – which I doubt.
Connect by cable to the Internet
Yes, on occasion you are in the situation of not having a Wi-Fi network close to which you can connect, and it is also not possible to navigate through the data network – either due to lack of coverage, or because you have past MB consumed from your bill – it never hurts to have an adapter on hand that allows you to connect your smartphone to the wired network . In addition, you can usually enjoy a faster connection speed than if you were connected through the Wi-Fi network.
Print any document without being connected to the Wi-Fi network
Many of the current printers already have Wi-Fi to print documents from other devices connected to the same network. But if you are in the situation of not being able to connect to the network in question, you only need a USB cable to connect the mobile to the printer and transfer the documents you want to print.
Recover data from a mobile with a broken screen
If your mobile screen has broken and the touch does not work, you can still recover some of the content in case you have not made a full backup . This trick even works by connecting an iPhone to an Android phone via USB, as several Reddit users have been able to verify for themselves.
Control your DSLR camera from your mobile
Canon, Nikon, Panasonic and other popular companies specializing in the creation of DSLR cameras, have their own applications for Android that, among other things, allow you to control the parameters of each photo through the mobile. Only one USB cable is necessary to connect the camera to the mobile, and the corresponding app depending on the camera. In addition, it will also be possible to transfer the captured images directly to the mobile storage , so you can edit them with your favorite Android photo editor.
Read the content of your old Floppy records
It is probably a use that very few will give the USB OTG of their smartphones, but it serves as an example to see all the possibilities offered by this technology. If, for some reason, you have old Floppy disks or floppy disks at home , you can use an external reader to access its content through an Android device . The operation, as can be seen in the video on these lines, is better than one might initially expect.
These are just some of the uses that can be given to the USB port of an Android phone thanks to the OTG, but the truth is that the possibilities are endless , since virtually any external peripheral can be connected to an Android device.