What is USB OTG?

.Another acronym to learn? Now it’s “OTG.” Luckily this one’s easy. It stands for “On the Go” and what it tells you, is you can plug this into your phone. (Well maybe not your phone, but maybe your friend’s.)

Most Android phones made in the last five years charge using the MicroUSB connector. If you have an Android you know this connector, it’s the small one at the left of the photo and you probably put it in upside down half a dozen times a day. Yeah, that’s the one.

You use this connector to charge your phone. but it can also be used to download pictures, connect to a flash drive,  or get pictures off a memory card. It can do pretty much anything a USB connector can do. That’s because it is a USB connector, just a smaller one.

Connect a USB OTG adapter like the one above and you can use almost any USB device. Or, just get a USB OTG flash drive like the one at the top of this article.. You can’t use most hard drives, but pretty much everything else is fair game. There are all sorts of OTG devices too that let you do everything from connect to a camera to use wired ethernet. Not every adapter will work with every phone. If your phone has this connection it’s a fair bet that the adapter will work.

Small PCs also use this connection instead of a full-size USB because it saves space, and OTG adapters work with these PCs as well.

Now… the bad news. If you have an iPhone (any iPhone) these won’t work for you. They also won’t work very well if your phone uses that new USB C connector. I love that connector because you never put it in the wrong way. It’s found on the top-end phones. There are adapters that let you use one of those OTG cables with USB C, but you’re better off just getting a USB C version of what you want, such as this USB C memory card reader.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.