What is a USB OTG & What Awesome Things Can You Do With It?
What is a USB OTG? Many Android phones use micro USB ports for charging and transferring files back and forth with your PC. But, what you may not know is that there is so much that you can do with a USB OTG. Here is everything you should know.
What is an OTG Cable?
One of the benefits of an Android phone is that the device functions as both a peripheral and a host, meaning that the phone can operate as an external drive to transfer files, but it can also accept input from a USB mouse, keyboard, external drive, USB microphone and a ton of other external devices.
As of writing this, I have used my phone to scan my entire book library with an infrared scanner, connected and printed to a printer, to edit podcasts with a mouse, to type this article with an external keyboard, to play games on my phone using a USB controller, and, of course, to record audio for video and podcasts.
Not every function is supported, as there are limited apps to use OTG peripherals like scanners, but most basic input/output and storage functions are supported. All you need is an OTG cable.
What Is a “Peripheral”?
A peripheral refers to any input or output device connected to the computer outside of the memory and microprocessor. It includes mice, keyboards, storage devices, video and audio processors and monitors, and cameras, but the list is much more extensive.
The difference between OTG and USB
If you’re like me, you’ve probably already tried to use an adapter to connect a USB device up to your phone with no joy. This goes back to the phone’s functionality as both a host and a peripheral.
By design, the phone acts as a peripheral unless it receives a signal to enter host mode. That signal is provided by an additional pin in the OTG cable. When the phone detects this pin, it allows connectivity to your USB devices.
Powered v. Unpowered
While there are a number of different manufacturers with OTG cables on the market, the functionality of them is the same. The one major difference in OTG cables for the Android is whether they are powered and unpowered. And that one difference can mean a lot in terms of the impact of the functionality of your equipment and your phone’s battery life.
In terms of functionality, some devices require a bit more power to function. When you connect a USB device to your phone or computer, the device is powered by a 5v current provided by the USB cable. When these devices are low amperage, like a mouse or keyboard, the phone’s port usually provides enough amperage to interface with these without power.
However, a device that requires significantly more amperage, like a USB microphone, may exceed the current that the phone is able to provide, resulting in either bad quality or not functioning at all. A powered cable, on the other hand, can be connected to an external charger to provide power to the external device at an amperage able to power the USB device.
Does OTG work on all phones?
Nearly all smartphones and tablets that are currently available support USB On-The-Go. Do you have an older model or do you just want to know for sure? Download the app “USB OTG Checker” on your device for free, so you can check if your device is suitable for OTG.
Is there OTG for iOS
While there are a number of peripherals specifically developed or in development for the iPhone and other iOS devices, iOS does not currently support OTG. As such, the iPhone does not support most USB devices that are not specifically designed to connect to it. A number of devices are supported using a lightning cable with an iOS device.
However, the functionality of many USB devices is not supported and drives with large memory capacities may require an external hub, like the uniAccessories USB-C hub.
In what might be one of the most interesting uses of USB OTG, it can be used to have one Android phone charge another phone. All you have to do is connect the two phones, and the phone acting as the USB host (the one directly connected to the USB OTG cable) will start charging the other device.
This can be really helpful in emergency situations when your phone’s battery runs out, and you don’t have a charger or wall socket around. Even non-Android devices such as iPhones can be charged via this method.
Most of the digital cameras come with built-in microphones; still getting good quality sound out of it is a pain. You can use your Smartphone’s microphone to record audio clips on your Windows or Mac. You can attach your phone through OTG and utilise the phone’s microphone to record audio via PC software.
On the other hand, you can also connect professional USB microphones to your smartphone using OTG adapter.
3.Use Musical Instruments
Apart from just voice recording, you can compose your own music on smartphones. Musical instruments can be connected usually with Computers via the MIDI standard.
Using OTG cable, you can connect your MIDI controllers to your smartphone via USB. To use the MIDI controllers properly, you will require downloading some applications like TouchDAW and you are ready to be the next Beethoven.
4.Trigger the Gamer in you
Smartphone gaming is really a fun thing, though many prefer gaming consoles/controllers as they offer better control and functions. There are game controllers in the market in which you can connect to your smartphone and take the gaming capabilities of your phone to a next level.
5.Use a Mouse or Keyboard
The other cool functionality you can add to your smartphone is to make use of a USB mouse or USB keyboard. Typing on a touch screen might not a feasible option for many. Simply attach a USB keyboard to your phone using an OTG adapter and enjoy the work.
Likewise, use a USB mouse to navigate the smartphone and add efficiency to your daily tasks.
The USB accessories like a LED light, portable fan, and other works quite well with smartphones when connected via OTG. Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) like Xiaomi are offering a wide range of accessories you can use with your smartphone.
7.Use your Ethernet/LAN on smartphone
Wi-Fi is obviously a good option to access high-speed internet on smartphones. Still, the speed degrades as you move further from the Wi-Fi router. What if we could use our home broadband connection directly on a smartphone?
You can make this happen just by using an OTG cable and a USB Ethernet connector. Plug them both and enjoy the wired-connection your smartphone.
8.Connect 3G/4G USB internet dongle
There was a time when USB internet dongles were the only portable and high-speed internet connectivity option. However, the internet dongles disappeared from the market as new options arrived. Most of us have a high-speed home broadband connection, but using a 3G dongle is quite a handy option.
To use a 3G/4G dongle with your smartphone, download an Android app called PPP Widget 3 from Play Store. Connect your dongle to the phone using OTG cable. Select PPP Widget to pair the device with the dongle. Enter the internet dial-up settings received from your ISP and hit the connect button and voila.
9.Print directly from your smartphone
The normal printing process requires a computer to give prints. You have to transfer the files and documents to PC and then print them. But not anymore.
Connect the printer to your phone using a USB OTG cable. Install the PrintShare app on your phone and it will automatically pick up the latest drivers for your USB printers. A simple tap on the print option on the app and it’s done.
10.Connect a Camera
Copying images from a digital camera or DSLR is really a tedious job. You have to connect the camera and phone to the computer and then perform a copy-paste job. You can connect your camera directly to your smartphone using an OTG cable.