Some might consider this obvious but: if you need transfer data between an Android smartphone (or tablet) and a computer, the easiest way to do so is by connecting the two using a USB or USB Type-C cable.
If you didn't have one on hand, you might want to consider using a Cloud-based service like Google Drive or Dropbox. These can allow you to keep data from a phone or tablet in sync with a computer with no cables required. In that sense, they're a little more convenient, but they do require a decently fast Internet connection. They can also prove problematic when it comes to larger multimedia files like high quality video.
If neither of those options suit, you might want to consider an on-the-go (OTG) USB stick.
OTG USB Sticks Explained
OTG USB Sticks work in the most basic of ways: plug the USB key into your computer and transfer some files to it (be it music, movies, presentations for work, or masses of photos), then plug the USB key into your phone or tablet to access those files while you are on the go. The neat thing is that you don’t even have to transfer the files over to the smartphone or tablet to view them; you could just play them off the stick itself.
There are a few of these sticks available these days from various vendors, including Mosdart, Imation, SanDisk, and Verbatim. These types of USB sticks have a microUSB or USB Type-C head on one end, which can be plugged in to your Android phone or tablet, and a regular USB connection on the other end, to plug in to your computer.
In order to view the files on an OTG USB stick, you have to use a file manager app on your mobile device. Usually, the USB stick manufacturers recommend one that they think is suitable for their device, but you can use whichever file manager app you’re comfortable with. Through this app, you can copy and paste files, move things around, or just view files in the same way that you do when connect a USB or external storage device to your PC.
More than a way to transfer files to a smartphone or tablet, a USB OTG stick can be used to transfer files between smartphones and between smartphones and tablets. It’s a good way to get data off a personal smartphone and a work smartphone, for example, or if you just want to share something with a friend or backup your files to a secondary device.
There is a caveat, though: in order to use an On-The-Go USB stick, your Android smartphone or tablet has to support the USB On-The-Go standard, too. This means the USB OTG port on the smartphone can act as a host to see the storage device that’s plugged into it. You’ll need to check with your smartphone manufacturer to see if your model supports OTG, or check the sites of the USB stick makers to see if your smartphone is on their compatibility list.
There are also adapters that let you turn non-OTG USB Sticks into OTG USB Sticks. These are often cheaper and a good option if you already have a few spare USB sticks sitting around.
Reviews of USB OTG devices
This article was originally published in 2014 and updated in 2020 by Fergus Halliday.