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APN vs VPN: What Are The Differences?

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If you are someone interested in technology and all of its features, you might hear the words VPN and APN thrown around. Both of these services provide a layer of protection while accessing the internet. So, what are the differences between APNs and VPNs? And do they serve the same purpose? 

What is an APN? 


First off, APN stands for Access Point Name. It is an agent that helps your phone connect to a wireless network. In other words, it is the settings that connect your cellular network to a wireless network. 

Each and every mobile phone has an APN; it is usually provided by your cellphone carrier. You don’t need to enter the settings manually, unless you want to change your original APN.  An access point name is not only important for connecting to a network. It is also essential for providing security and privacy. 

How to Configure Your APN Settings? 

In some cases, an APN change is necessary. If you buy a new phone, you must manually change the settings. This helps connect your phone to the internet and 3G/4G mobile networks. Also, in some cases you might receive an error message when connecting to a network. Therefore, you should change your APN settings. To do so, follow these steps:

  1.  Go to your mobile’s settings and select ‘mobile networks’ On some phones, APN are found in the ‘wireless networks’ part of settings. 
  2. You found your APN. The next step is clicking on ‘add APN’.  
  3. Check the information given to you by your carrier provider.  
  4. Enter all the information in that section. 
  5. Click save. 
  6. Reboot your phone so that the changes can take place. 
  7. Connect to the network using your new APN. 

Private APNs 

Private APN

Private APNs connect you to a private network. You do not share your APN network with thousands of other users. Hence, your mobile will connect to a private server. The only way to do so is by connecting to a company’s corporate private APN.

This ensures your communications between fellow employers and employees are secure. A private APN allows you to configure your APN settings to a specific IP address. Furthermore, private APNs protect you against low-potency malware. It cannot fully provide complete protection but it can detect any low-level malware. Private APNs are efficient when choosing to connect IoT devices.  



A VPN is a virtual network device that shields your information from malicious behavior. It hides your IP address and reroutes your traffic. Meanwhile, an APN is the connecting point between your mobile phone and the internet.

A VPN requires an internet connection. Therefore, you cannot even access a VPN without having an APN in place. Both APN and VPN have security mechanisms to keep you safe. They have several layers of protection in place. However, this doesn’t mean that they share the same goal. 

So are APNs and VPNs the same? Let’s find out. 


First off, you can never be certain that your information is safe with only an APN in place. Your service provider determines your APN, meanwhile with a VPN you get to choose the server you connect to. This means that a VPN provides a better measure of security when it comes to protecting your anonymity. APNs serve the purpose of providing a stable internet connection. Moreover, you can always choose to configure your own APN settings. APN settings are customizable which provides you with more options for security.

VPNs create a secure tunnel for your data. Furthermore, VPNs transmit your private info like emails or communications in an encrypted format. You can’t be sure that your private information won’t fall into the wrong hands. With no VPN in place, there is no guarantee to your safety. An APNs main goal is to connect you to the wireless network available. It will offer little to no protection against cyber attacks or malware. VPNs, on the other hand, have specific features for dealing with cyber threats. Therefore, the differences in security between VPNs and APNs are glaringly obvious. 

Connecting Procedures 

Another difference between APNs and VPNs is the way they connect to a network. A VPN needs an existing, established network in order to work. Meanwhile, APNs directly connect the user to the internet network available.  

APN and VPN services differ also with their connecting procedures. You can install a VPN by going to their official website and downloading the application to your PC. This also works by going to the Apple Store or Google Play to download the application. From there, all you have to do is create a profile. Each profile is unique with its own username and password. Buy your preferred subscription and connect to a server. Most VPNs provide thousands of servers to choose between. Whereas, with APNs, your mobile phone carrier provides all of the details. All you have to do is enter it in the correct place. 

Public Access vs Private Access

One of the main differences between APNs and VPNs is the type of access available. Anyone who buys the same data plan has access to the APN general network. This means that thousands of people are using the same network you are. Whereas with VPNs, each and every profile is unique; no one can access it unless they somehow find your log-in info. APN networks don’t have separate profiles.

On the other hand, every single VPN user has their own profile. Your VPN profile connects you to a server that is more controlled than an APN network.  This also means that with a VPN network, if your server is slow, all you have to do is change it. You cannot do so with an APN. APNs may slow down during holidays or busy season and you cannot easily switch to a different network.  

Breaking Through Network Restrictions 

When comparing APN vs VPN services, another glaring difference is that an access point name can never help you bypass restrictions. The main purpose of an APN is connecting you to your wireless network. It acts as a middle agent. An APN does not bypass geo-restrictions for streaming, gaming or online shopping.

Furthermore, An APN cannot change your IP address or reroute your data. Meanwhile, a VPN’s main purpose is doing so. A virtual private network ensures privacy. This means that it can give you a different IP address and protect your data. On the other hand, a APNs goal is to protect the wireless provider.  

APN vs VPN – Which one do you choose?  


Determining which one to choose can be a tricky situation. However, all you have to do is decide what exactly you need. If you need to connect to a network, regardless of safety, APN is your choice. However, if you need to ensure security and privacy of your data and location, VPNs provide that.

Both APNs and VPNs offer their variety of features and security protocols. Both serve their purposes. APNs connect you to a wireless provider and keep it safe. On the other hand, VPNs shield your personal and sensitive data. Some VPNs may not actually be safe, whereas APNs are always trustworthy because of their source. 

Be careful while picking your VPN provider, and choose one that is well known and popular. If you need an extra level of security, a private APN network is the way to go. Furthermore, it all comes to an issue of personal preference and pricing. You might not want to pay more for VPNs. But with good VPNs, you get your money’s worth with layers of security protocols and military-grade encryption.

In some cases, some people choose to do both. You can connect your mobile to an APN and access your wireless network. This provides you some measure of security against malware. But also, you can choose to subscribe to one of the many reliable VPNs available. Connecting to both APN and VPN guarantee your privacy and safety.

Keep in mind that you can always opt to set up your own VPN server for additional privacy. You don’t really need any technical networking knowledge, you can simply hire a professional to set it up for you. Network administrators and technicians can be easily hired on sites like Jooble.

APN vs VPN – Conclusion

The comparison of APN vs VPN services shows that these are very different services that address different needs and privacy settings. APNs ensure your connection to a wireless network. This network is shared by thousands of people. Anyone who has access to a wireless data plan can connect to it. This means that you might face privacy problems, malware or even slow connection.

A VPN on the other hand, secures your private information. VPNs hide your internet data and traffic. Moreover, most VPNs don’t keep data logs so you are basically untraceable. Both of these services are important for your internet security. One of the best solutions to this is getting both services. Make sure to connect to your APN by configuring your mobile settings. From that point, you can add and save a new APN that you get from your carrier.

Finally, choose one of the many available VPNs like NordVPNCyberGhost, ExpressVPN or Surfshark. Select any of their servers and connect to it. These servers ensure anonymity and privacy. This way you can enjoy your online experience with no worries whatsoever.  

Raymond Kenney

Raymond Kenney

Raymond Kenney, a master's graduate in Cybersecurity from Boston University, is a seasoned IT professional and expert in VPNs and online privacy. With over ten years of industry experience, Raymond has produced multiple authoritative articles on network security and data privacy. Renowned for his meticulous approach, he conducts comprehensive reviews on various VPN services, assessing their features and security protocols. His expert advice is based on extensive research and practical knowledge.

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