Although we may call them â€œsmartphones,â€ the device you have in your pocket is actually a regular general-purpose computer. As smartphone manufacturers began to wake up to this fact, smartphones (and of course tablets) began to acquire more and more â€œcorrectâ€ computing attributes.
With technology such as USB-C, your smartphone’s port is a massive multi-lane, bi-directional backbone. Just like your laptop or desktop computer, you can connect all sorts of peripherals to it that expand the functionality of your device. And this is in addition to all the benefits of wireless!
OTG accessories or On The Go refer to the OTG standard for USB ports of smartphones. Early smartphones had a one-way communication with everything you connected to them. They can never play the role of “host” for devices, like a computer. The phone was mainly seen as a smartphone accessory.
Phones that support OTG (which includes almost all modern phones) can act as both host and client, depending on what you connect them to. USB-C is quickly becoming the standard and is the most convenient implementation of OTG, but many relatively recent phones that still use the old micro-USB port also work with OTG devices, albeit with less available power and less bandwidth.
External storage support is perhaps the most important thing when it comes to mobile phones. You can now buy OTG sticks that already have a USB-C or Micro USB port out of the box. Just plug them into your mobile device and access your files directly from your file system or app.
Wireless file transfer is amazing convenience, but orders of magnitude slower than simply plugging a USB drive into your phone and transferring files quickly.
Mechanical external hard drives work well too, but overall the phone doesn’t provide enough power to run them. As such, you may need a powered hub for this setup to work. With a large tablet like the 2018 12.9-inch iPad Pro, we had no problem with the portable hard drive. That is, after reformatting from NTFS to exFat
External cameras and microphones
The microphones and cameras built into modern smartphones are incredibly impressive, but there is only so much you can do in the designated space.
The good news is that if you have a good quality USB microphone, you can use it as an OTG device. This allows you, for example, to record your latest podcast episode on a topic that sounds awesome, rather than what’s inside a tin can.
Another interesting feature is the connection of external video camera equipment. There are now products that allow you to attach a third-party camera to your phone for special use. For example, Insta360 cameras are an affordable way to turn your phone into a 360 Â° video device.
However, this is not yet what is natively supported by mobile operating systems. A companion application is usually required to operate these cameras once connected.
Keyboards, Mice, and Monitors
Yes, it is possible to essentially turn your phone into a desktop computer by plugging in classic peripherals that usually plug into a beige box. Using a USB-C hub with the ports you want, you can quickly navigate to a website or write your masterpiece novel.
Of course, you have to deal with mobile interfaces. Android has built-in mouse support, and iOS recently added it on an experimental basis, but custom solutions like Samsung Dex or a third-party desktop app for Android can go a long way in making this a feasible way to meet your computing needs.
iOS13 recently added support for Xbox One S and PS4 controllers, but on the Android side, you can actually connect any of these pads using USB OTG technology.
In our testing of the game, support for this was fairly widespread, although not as versatile as the Apple MFi standard set across the fence. For Android users, it’s as easy as using an OTG adapter and a short micro-USB cable and you’re ready to play.
Combined with a handy phone mount with gamepad, you have a great portable gaming solution!
Weird, specialized, but useful things
Since USB-C is such a versatile and versatile technology, you can plug in some things that might not be obvious, but can be pretty cool.
For example, USB-C monitors are laptop-sized thin paper displays that can work with your phone. What about a USB Midi controller for music production? Ethernet over USB is also possible, which is very strange but useful in some cases. Have you ever thought about connecting a printer to your phone? This is possible depending on the model.
Some DSLRs also let you chat through your phone. Remote wired device control by APP.
What about iOS users?
The situation for iOS users is a little more complicated than using OTG on Android. This is mainly due to the fact that Apple switched to USB-C from its internal Lightning standard.
Whether something would work on the go via Lightning was pretty risky. People have had success using the Apple Lightning Camera Connection Kit and the newer USB 3.
It’s always a good idea to use Google specific accessories, whether or not they work with this solution. Support for external storage on iOS devices is very recent, but we’ve seen plenty of evidence that it works great with this suite.
If you have an Apple device that uses USB-C natively, then you’re fine!
Join the OTG revolution!
While smartphones are awesome as standalone devices, you are missing out on a lot if you ignore the potential of this humble little charging port. So be daring, connect your smartphone accessories and expand your mobile horizons.