How to connect a USB flash drive to your Android phone

Say you're going to a party and your friends have asked you to play amateur DJ. Your phone has some music on it, but there's so much more on your thumb drive or external solid state drive. You don't want to bring an entire laptop to the party! Why not hook it up to your phone?

Another scenario: you're going on a long road trip or flight and you can't imagine anything better than watching movies the whole time. Problem is, you can't fit them all on the internal or removable storage on your Android phone. Bring your flash drive! It's full of movies!

Connecting a USB flash storage device to your Android phone is cheap and easy. Let's find out what you need and, finally, how to get everything connected and safely disconnected again.

How to check if your phone supports USB On-The-Go

Not all Android phones support USB On-The-Go (OTG) functionality. If you don't have the correct guts in your phone you're not going to be hooking anything up with OTG. Luckily, to check if your phone is compatible requires just one app download.

The Google Play Store has a great app called OTG? that you can download now on your phone. It scans your phone automatically and will let you know if you're one of the lucky ones. If you are, keep reading.

Download: OTG? (Free)

What you'll need to connect USB flash storage to your Android phone

Connecting USB flash storage to your Android phone is easy and cheap. Here's what you'll need:

A USB OTG cable

Some Android phones, like the Galaxy S7, come with a USB OTG cable in the box — but most don't. If your Android phone didn't come with an OTG cable, you can pick them up off Amazon for super cheap.

This cable is what allows you to hook up your phone to your flash storage device. Without it you're pooched.

The one linked to here is made by Ugreen — it's $5, it has a one year warranty, and it works great. The cable is six inches long, so you'll be able to set your flash storage device and phone down any way you'd like. Can't really beat that.

See at Amazon

A USB flash storage device

This one is largely up to you. Any storage with a USB connector will work as long as it's formatted as FAT32. If you want a ton of storage you'll probably want a solid state drive with a USB connector (but beware of the power draw — not all drives will work!). If you're OK with less storage, a thumb drive will do the trick.

If you don't already have an OTG cable or a USB flash storage device, you can purchase an all-in-one flash drive and OTG connector. The one pictured here, made by Patriot, has 128GB of storage, has USB and micro-USB male connectors, and only costs about $40. You can plug it into your computer, transfer files onto it, then plug it into your phone and stream media without the need for a separate OTG cable.

See at Amazon

How to connect a USB flash storage device to your Android phone

  1. Plug your USB OTG cable into your Android phone.
  2. Plug your USB flash storage device into the female connector of your OTG cable. The file explorer on your phone should automatically pop up.

That's it! As long as your USB flash storage device is connected you'll be able to play media from it. Be careful you don't remove the storage device while using or transferring files.

How to safely disconnect a USB flash storage device from your Android phone

  1. Swipe down from the top of your phone's screen.
  2. Tap USB mass storage connected.

Simple as that. You can now safely unplug your flash storage device without risking corruption of any files.

Are you connected?

Do you use OTG cables to connect flash storage to your Android phone? Do you use a different method? Let us know in the comments section below!

Cale Hunt
Cale Hunt is a staff writer at Mobile Nations. He focuses mainly on PC, laptop, and accessory coverage, as well as the emerging world of VR. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user, and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.