What Is USB OTG and What Does It Do?

Connect external devices to your Android smartphone or tablet

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

iOS devices don't support USB OTG, but there are ways to gain similar functionality and connect USB devices to iPhones and iPads.

USB OTG storage settings in Android

What Is USB OTG For?

You'll see a "USB OTG" label on devices that can connect and control external USB peripherals, or 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. If you plug your Android smartphone into your computer, the computer will be the host, and the phone will act as a peripheral. You'd likely use your computer to manage files on the phone.

If the Android phone is USB OTG-capable, however, you'd also be able to 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 your 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 On-The-Go logo
USB-IF

USB OTG Checker Apps

If your product packaging is long gone, 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 your device's settings. While this will vary widely by device, it's likely under your system settings or wherever your 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, however, there are many useful functions. To create laptop functionality with an Android tablet, you'd 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 would be handy for streaming video games with a service like Google Stadia.

Another example would be using USB OTG to connect USB flash drives or even external hard drives to your phone or tablet, dramatically increasing your 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.