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Android is USBtastic

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So, when I bought my Samsung Galaxy SII I’d already read that it can operate the USB port in “USB On-The-Go (OTG)” mode, meaning you could plug in USB devices to the phone to share the data, for example USB Flash Drives, Digital Camera’s, keyboards, mice, etc.  I wouldn’t say the list is endless as it depends on what drivers are required.  However, generally speaking most basic input devices and storage should be supported.  A note about the storage though, Android currently only supports up to 32GB FAT32 partitions, so keep this in mind when shoving storage onto your phone.

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Right, anyhow, back to the story.  Oh yeah, I bought my SGS2 and then proceeded to buy a pucker Samsung OTG cable.  A Google search lead me back to a company I’ve bought from in the past, Check them out, they have some seriously cool mobile device add-ons, I’ll present a small bit of my wish list at the end of this post.

Look, stop letting me get off on tangents, I’m trying to tell ya’ll about this USB OTG experiment I knocked up.  How rude, anyhow, as I was saying, SGS2, OTG cable + some boredom lead me to this.

Take a perfect good SGS2, one Genuine Samsung Galaxy S2 i9100 Micro USB to USB Converter (£14.99), one mini USB hub a selection of USB Flash drives, one USB Hard Drive (500GB) and a USB Battery pack and you too can make the following.  There are only 2 real notes here, 1) the USB hard drive was partitioned and formatted under Windows 7, I created the first partition of 32GB, a second of 32GB and the last partition was the rest of the drive.  I formatted the 2 smaller partitions in FAT32 and the last in NTFS, 2) The USB power pack and double headed cable was needed to supply power to the USB hub and all the devices and mostly the USB hard drive, the SGS2 as great as it is can’t manage it.

So, the overview photo:


Here we have the SGS2 (right), connected to the Samsung OTG cable.  That in turn is plugged into the USB Hub. In the top left is the USB Battery pack (with 3 LED’s), that is plugged in with a USB power + data cable that came with a USB CD drive, that’s plugged into the Hub with one end and the black hard drive, top centre.  Also, into the USB hub are 3 flash drives.

Here you’ll see the disk space available from each the drives.  On each of the flash drives and the partitions of the HDD I’ve created a file that identifies each drive by name (just so I’d know which drive showed up on which mount point, smart eh?  Fine, be like that)


Above, you can see the 4 mount points that were created.  BTW, I’m using the most excellent ES File Manager from EStrongs Inc. and the SD Card Analyst function to display the volume info in the photos below.


This screen shot is of the 32GB HDD partition.  Remember I mentioned that I’d created 3 partitions on the drive, that was an experiment to see if Android was able to see more then one partition on a drive, sadly this is not the case.  So, if you plan to use a large drive like I have, just make one partition of 32GB and the other the rest of the disk space.


So, so that was all a bit over the top for an experiment, but it just goes to show how capable Android devices can.  In a slightly more practical use for the USB OTG cable, the primary reason I bought the cable.  I really wanted it so I could plug in my digital camera’s or at least their SD cards so I could immediately access the photos I’ve taken and get them uploaded or even just check them on a better screen.

Here are a couple photos of the OTG cable plugged into a SD Card reader and a Camera.


I have 2 camera’s, the Panasonic Lumix in the photo and a Nikon D5000, the Panasonic works nicely with the phone when plugged in directly, however the Nikon doesn’t seem to connect, but the SD card works fine.

As with the screen shots above, when plugging in the SD Card reader or the Camera they simply show up mounted on /sdcard/usbStorage/  Normally storage will mount as “sda”, “sdb”, etc hard drives (not flash drives) will mount as “sdda”, “sddb”, etc.

I hope you’ve found this useful, and highly recommend one of these cables for your SGS2!!!  I’d like to see phone companies include these in the box, but that’s not going to happen.  That’s why shops like exist, to supply all of our geeky goodies.  Speaking of geeky goodies I mentioned something about my wish list, here’s some things I’d love to find under my Christmas Tree this year


helo-1The iHelicopter, work with Android and some other devices that start with “i” SmileThe Infra-red transmitter plugs into the headset jack on your phone and then works with the application to control the helicopter.  Simply top level geekness.

Should you find a lack of space to fly one of these (like me), then perhaps a couple of these

desk-tankThe DeskPets TankBot.  Something else I’d like to find under the tree this year.


Do you use an OTG cable?  Have you used it for more then just storage?  Any cool input devices?  How about a drawing tablet?  USB Oscilloscope? USB Microscope? Anything else?

Hope you’ve enjoyed this posting, please comment.

2 thoughts on “Android is USBtastic”

  1. No, I never did get one of the toys .. I’m dead certain it’s the same thing that I built for the camera in another blog posting.

  2. Hi Rob,

    You didn’t happen to get a tankbot or iHelecopter did you? Just wondering if the IR emitters that come with them are active rather than passive, would be handy if they also worked with the PhotoIRmote app on the SGS2 🙂

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