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USB keyboards on a smartphone likely won't work. Just because you've got a USB socket doesn't mean it will support every kind of device. Same is actually true for Bluetooth.

I have a Samsung Galaxy S2 smartphone running Android Gingerbread and I bought an OTG cable, which enables me to plug in a USB memory stick. No problem. I would like to occasionally plug in a standard computer USB keyboard but although there's lots on the internet that suggest it might be possible, I cannot find anything specific. Mostly it ends up with where to buy a Bluetooth keyboard - not what I wanted. Any ideas?

In this excerpt from Answercast #69, I look at the possibilities of connecting an external keyboard to a smartphone via a USB port or Bluetooth.

Ideas for plug in keyboards

Well, unfortunately, yeah, I do have a couple.

It's important to realize that just because a device may allow you to plug in a USB "something," such as a USB flash drive (which is actually kind of neat; I don't think my phone can do that), it doesn't mean that it's going to be possible to install or plug in any USB device - any arbitrary USB device.

Now when it comes to keyboards, I would be shocked if a USB keyboard could be plugged into just about any phone - because in reality, that implies that there's driver software on that phone that knows how to handle USB keyboards.

Given how few people actually do that, I'm not sure that manufacturers are considering that a reliable, or important, use-case at all.

In other words, I don't think the drivers are there to do what you want it to do. The drivers are clearly there to handle the external flash memory - which is actually kind of cool. It makes sense though that those drivers might be there because those drivers are very similar to the drivers that are required to access any internal flash memory to that smartphone.

So, enabling access to something over the USB cable? It doesn't seem like that much of a stretch - but your smartphone doesn't have drivers for an external keyboard; certainly not external USB keyboards. I'm not aware of a way to add those to it.

Bluetooth keyboards

Now, the reason so many places are going to be pushing you at Bluetooth connections is that, I believe, some phones support the ability to connect a keyboard (or some kind of an input device) via Bluetooth - but only via Bluetooth. That is, of course, for those phones that support Bluetooth, which is most of them - but to be clear, not all of them will support Bluetooth keyboards. Some of them might and you're going to have to get very specific and look for information (that unfortunately I don't have) very specifically for your model of Samsung and the specific version of Android that you're running (which you provided, Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread) to see if that combination even stands a chance of supporting a Bluetooth keyboard.

It might. That's the best I can say. It might - but I can almost certainly say that it's not going to handle something over USB. Just because you've got a USB socket doesn't mean it will support every USB device. Same is actually true for Bluetooth. Because some phone manufacturers look ahead to this kind of a scenario, it is often... or I should say it is sometimes possible to connect up a limited number of Bluetooth devices over Bluetooth for input.

I know for a fact that my old Android-based phone, an HTC Incredible, could not. It's one of the things that I looked up early on to see if in fact I could connect a Bluetooth keyboard to my phone. I cannot. I know that I can connect up a Bluetooth keyboard to my Motorola Tablet, my Zoom tablet, but I cannot to that phone. I actually haven't tried with my current phone, a Motorola Razr.

So, those are the things that I think are working against you here. It's not a very common use scenario. I would look specifically for accessories for your Samsung Galaxy X2 to see if there's anything that Samsung provides that could specifically address this issue. If they do not, then I'm going to place money on the thinking that there's probably is not a solution for this.

Article C6018 - November 11, 2012 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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1 Comment
November 12, 2012 3:36 AM

Many thanks for well-informed answer.
Much appreciated.
Keep up the superb work!

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