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What is APN?

By Ashley Burnett

Originally published October 18, 2023


Last Updated March 21, 2024

Mint Fox shrugging with question marks above his head with the title What Is APN

At some point, you may have run into the acronym “APN” and the term APN settings. So what is APN? APN settings allow your phone to interface with your wireless provider, and mostly apply to Android phones. They are usually used when your wireless provider is an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator)…you know, like us.

Any time you try to use data, your MVNO is reading the APN settings to determine security measures, what network you need to connect to and more. These settings also allow you to connect to the Internet and use MMS picture messaging.

In this article

What does APN stand for?

APN stands for Access Point Name. That’s easy enough.

How does an APN work?

Access point names have two components:

  1. A network identifier
  2. An operator identifier

The first determines the gateway (which refers to a piece of hardware or software that allows data to flow from one network to another) your phone connects to while the second determines which mobile network operator is associated with that gateway. 

Your phone reads your settings to set up a connection between you and your carrier’s cellular network and the internet. Your carrier then reads these settings to generate an IP address, connecting you to a secure gateway. In effect, an APN is a gateway between a GSM network and the Internet.

Why would I need to change APN settings?

You may need to change your APN settings to connect to a different network (depending on your phone), or because you’re either setting up a new device for the first time or popping in a SIM card for the first time. 

APN settings are super important, especially if you’re an Android user; this is because Android settings don’t configure automatically, as they can be used by a wide range of manufacturers and carriers. On the other hand, if you’re an iPhone user running iOS 13 or above, you won’t need to configure your settings; but if you’re running iOS or below, you may need to do so.

What happens if I set up my APN incorrectly?

If you set up your APN settings incorrectly, you won’t be able to use your phone’s SIM card for SMS or MMS messaging or to browse the Internet.

What are the most important APN settings?

There are four important APN settings:

  1. APN: Access Point Name aka what we were just talking about
  2. APN type: There are four of these: generic, SUPL (secure user plane location), MMS (multimedia messaging service) and WAP (wireless application protocol–not to be confused with the Cardi B/Megan Thee Stallion song)
    1. Generic, like its name may suggest, is a default setting used by many carriers
    2. SUPL sets up a secure connection with a server in your operator’s network
    3. MMS allows you to send multimedia messages–e.g., ones with pictures
    4. WAP allows you to access info over mobile wireless networks
  3. MMSC: Multimedia Messaging Service Center–this is required for most MVNOs
  4. Proxy: Some carriers use this to create a proxy between the Internet and your network
Diagram showing how to easily find APN settings on a phone

How to check APN settings

Finding your settings will depend on your phone, and the directions below may differ slightly based on your device.

How to check APN settings on Android

  1. Open Settings
  2. Tap Mobile Networks
  3. Tap Access Point Names
  4. Select the Access Point you want to check

How to check APN settings on iPhone

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Tap Cellular or Mobile Data
  3. Select Cellular Data Options or Mobile Data Options
  4. Tap Cellular Network or Mobile Data Network

Can I change my APN?

If you’re on Mint and have an Android device, learn how to configure your Android settings. On an iPhone? Then check out our guide on configuring iPhone settings.

If you still need help, why not check out our handy how-to video featuring our telegenic mascot on configuring yours?

We’re fin with APN

Now you know all there is to know about APN and how it allows you to tap into all that sweet mobile data. If you’re all ready to configure those settings so they’re compatible with your phone, why not check the compatibility of your phone with Mint Mobile. It’s super simple — just click the link below.

Originally published June 2022; updated October 2023

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