USB On-The-Go

USB OTG is gaining good publicity in last couple of days but do you know what it is? Lets take a look at USB on-the-go technology and its benefits for smartphone.

The USB or Universal Serial Bus has been defining our PCs since the technologies were launched. However, USBs of yesteryear’s had its limitations that force users to shift out of PDAs, smart phones and digital cameras to PCs. To connect devices together had been a problem, as the average USB didn’t support all. However a new version of the USB called the USB OTG answers these limitations and facilitates better inter-connectivity. USB OTG allows to connect two devices without the need for a computer as a medium. In the past months, USB On-The-Go has been receiving high backing from important brands like Ericsson, Nokia, HP, Motorola, Cypress, Qualcomm, Microsoft, Intel and Philips. Further, as vendors are continually updating with new OEM platforms, the significance of the USB OTG is gaining grounds. Let’s take a closer look at what the new technology brings for us.

USB OTG, where OTG stands for On-The-Go, is an advanced version of the USB 2.0 found in a range of devices including our computers and laptops. USB OTG allows any device to connect with another without requiring a host such as a laptop. Previously, to transfer photographs from a digital camera to smart phone, you would have required copying the photographs from the camera to a laptop and then transferring it to the phone. However, with USB On-The-Go, you can directly connect the camera and the phone and start the transfer. As technology is shifting away from the PC centric world of yesterday, an USB OTF becomes a highly relevant product.

It’s not just about inter connectivity of the two devices. USB OTG also allows you to take control of everything using a single device, which may be anything. By enabling your smart phone (for the sake of an example) as the host, you can now use a dozen of peripheral devices including keyboards, mouse, musical instruments and even a game pad! There’s no limit to the numbers of hardware you can connect to a device using USB On-The-Go. This gives more power to your gadgets, you smart phone being the case here.

It is important to note here that USB OTG isn’t an Android specific product but is already being supported in several printers and digital cameras. Even Microsoft will bring the USB OTG to its Windows Phone 10 version, to be released next. Well, Apple products haven’t yet shown signs of support but this only gives another reason to vote for Android!

Connecting Devices Through USB OTG:

USB Host OTG Cable

To start an OTG connection, it will be necessary to either go for an OTG cable to connect the devices or specifically mimic the physical configuration of already connected devices. The later will be especially useful when trying to configure two devices with zero length OTG host cables. Further, this will also be the case when trying to connect USB memory drives with OTG Micro A-Type connectors at one end, while the other end is a USB Type-A connector.

So if you are tired of tapping on your phone screen for too long or trying to perform a more precise placement on the touch screen, the USB-OTG will be the only solution, as of now. Plug in an OTG mouse or a keyboard and your questions are answered. Today, there are already a diverse list of vendors who are manufacturing USB OTG adapters and cables. A good kit will give you a range of connectivity options including:

  • Micro USB Type-A Male – Micro SD Card Reader
  • Micro-USB 3.0 Type-A Male to USB 3.0 Type-A Female
  • Micro-USB Type-A Male to USB 2.0 Type-A Female
  • 30 pin (Samsung Galaxy) Male to USB 2.0 Type-A Female

Now, if you are starting to worry about the power that will be needed to make the connections workable, relax. The specifications of the USB OTG restrict the maximum current to only 8 mA. Also, you always have the option to use a powered USB Hub to plug your devices and lessening the strain on your smart phone.

How to know if Your device supports USB OTG:

One of the common questions at this point in time will be if your device supports USB OTG. Well, there are plenty ways to determine the same, starting at the manual for your gadget. Another simple way to find out is looking for the USB OTG logo approved by the USB Implementers Forum. You can further test the support by testing your device against an USB app in the Google Play Store. A good example would be the USB Host Diagnostics that has been developed by Chainfire.

So what does it mean for your phone?

  • With USB OTG and given that your phone supports the same, it will now become easy to:
  • Connect flash drives and other external hard drives directly to your phone. Now copy music and movies directly into your phone or save your phone pictures into an external hard drive without fuss.
  • Play video game of your phone and using an appropriate game controller handset. Think Xbox 360!
  • Control your screen using a keyboard and a mice
  • Connect your phone directly to a printer and print directly through USB
  • Take control of your DSLR camera and action camera. Be a more technically strong photographer!
  • Record music into your phone from a midi piano keyboard
  • Calling home? Connect your smaller phone screen to a tablet for a better video experience.

Though there would be plenty occasions when a laptop will be an irreplaceable device, there would be plenty other cases, where you can travel lighter. Better functionality and greater efficiency makes sure that the job gets done without much fuss. Try USB On-The-Go and you will be glad. Well, it doesn’t cost too much too!

What is your best use for USB OTG? Share your feedback in the comments.

Image Courtesy: USB OTG Setup

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