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12 unique ways to use USB OTG on Android

USB On-The-Go (popularly known as USB OTG) is undoubtedly one of the coolest features of Android (although some other devices also support it). It is a standard that allows USB OTG compatible devices (for example, almost all modern Android devices) to act as "hosts" or controllers for other USB devices, such as keyboards / mice, flash drives and even game controllers. Basically, this means that Android devices do not need a computer to act as a host to interact with other USB devices, and act as mini computers.

Thanks to USB OTG, you can extend the functionality of your Android smart phone in many ways and use it to do extremely interesting things, such as accessing data stored on Flash drives and even charging other phones. But is that all?

Not for long, and that is why this article rounds up some unique and great uses of USB OTG. But before we get to the list, here are some important things to keep in mind.

Important points

  • Although almost all Android devices have USB OTG capability, some (older) devices may not work. For such devices, you generally need to resort to solutions such as rooting and flashing custom ROMs.
  • In most cases, a USB OTG cable (like this one) is needed to connect USB OTG compatible devices with other USB devices.

1. Use mice / keyboards with Android phone

Do you want to navigate your Android smart phone with a mouse, as you do on a PC? It is not a problem, simply connect a USB mouse to the phone using a USB OTG cable and be ready. This can be really useful for data recovery, especially in situations where the touch screen of the device is damaged. Similarly, you can connect a USB keyboard to the phone and use it to write / edit text documents, emails, etc. in a much better way. Check out the embedded video partner.

2. Connect USB flash drives for data transfer and media playback

This can be useful when there is some important data on your Android phone that you want to copy to a USB flash drive (or vice versa). Simply connect the flash drive and use one of the many file management applications to move / copy data. You can also use this function if you have certain media (songs, movies, etc.) that you want to enjoy on your smart phone, without the hassle of transferring them to the phone's storage. How cool is that?

3. Create music on Android with MIDI controller applications using musical instruments

Almost all modern musical instruments (eg, keyboards, guitars) have the ability to connect to a PC using the MIDI standard. And thanks to USB OTG, you can also connect them to your Android devices. This allows you to use musical instruments to create music on Android devices. In general, you also need some specific applications of musical instruments for this. To illustrate, check the complementary video, which shows Grand Piano Pro, an application for Android, which generates musical notes produced by a connected musical instrument.

4. Control the DSLR camera (s) with Android smart phones

Preferred by professional photographers (and these days, even beginners), DSLR cameras offer the best image quality in their class, with extensive manual controls and a wide range of accessories. However, you can also control your DSLR camera and granularly adjust your manual controls using your Android phone connected via USB OTG, through numerous applications available for it. One of those applications is DSLR Controller, which can be used to adjust the focus, zoom control, shutter speed, ISO and some more, directly from the Android smart phone. It can even be used to record time-lapse videos.

5. Play games on Android smart phones with game controllers

Smart phone games are better and more powerful every day. That said, the on-screen controls offered by these games are, at best, frustrating. But don't worry, since USB OTG allows you to connect many game controllers to your Android device and to a game like a pro. This is especially useful when you play racing, action / adventure and shooting games. While most game controllers work directly, some require that your Android phone be rooted. Watch the complementary video, which shows an Xbox 360 controller that is used to play GTA: San Andreas on an Android phone. Very sweet, right?

6. Access to Ethernet on Android devices

When it comes to accessing the Internet on smart phones, Wi-Fi (or mobile data) is generally the way to go. But there may be times when you cannot access the wireless Internet. No problem, since you can also access the Internet via cable (usually called Ethernet) on your Android device. To do this, you not only need an OTG cable, but also a USB Ethernet adapter.

7. Print documents stored on the Android phone

Normally, printing documents requires that you use a computer program (for example, Microsoft Word) or copy the documents to be printed on a USB flash drive, and connect them to the printer's USB port. But why go through the trouble, when you can connect the printer directly to your Android smart phone, via USB OTG? However, for this, you also need an application called PrinterShare. You can download drivers for the USB printer (s) to the phone, after which it can be used to print documents, photos, etc. stored in your Android phone. PrinterShare also includes advanced options to change fonts, paper size and much more. Watch the embedded video illustrating the action.

8. Import photos from digital cameras to Android device

Like almost all other devices, digital cameras also use USB to connect to computers. And thanks to USB OTG, you can easily import photos taken with digital cameras (e.g., DSLR) to your Android phone. It's as simple as connecting the camera to the Android phone, and it can be really useful when you want to manage / edit the photos of the digital cameras on the Android smart phone, using one of the many applications available for it.

9. Use your Android smart phone to charge other phones

In what could be one of the most interesting uses of USB OTG, it can be used for an Android phone to load another phone. All you have to do is connect the two phones, and the phone that acts as a USB host (the one that is connected directly to the USB OTG cable) starts charging the other device. This can be really useful in emergency situations when your phone's battery runs out and you don't have a charger or power socket around. Even non-Android devices, such as iPhones, can be charged through this method.