When you see the APN and VPN acronyms for the first time, it seems like those are the short names of two similar technologies.
In fact, when you actually compare APN vs. VPN, it turns out that they are pretty much different.
In this article, we want to discuss what the APN and VPN technologies are, how they work, and finally how they are different from one another.
Now, let’s dive deeper into details!
What Is APN
The acronym APN stands for Access Point Name.
Access Point Name is a technology that supplies your mobile phone with the information required to connect to another computer network; often the public Internet.
It comprises a set of rules that your phone carrier needs to know to let your phone establish a wireless connection.
An APN acts as a gateway between your carrier’s GSM, GPRS, 3G, or 4G mobile network and the Internet.
It works automatically and is usually programmed into your phone, so basically, you don’t need to set up or configure it by yourself, except in some rare cases when you have to change your APN settings.
What Is VPN
The acronym VPN stands for Virtual Private Network.
Virtual Private Network is a technology that allows you to change your IP, bypass online censorship restrictions, and browse the Internet securely and anonymously.
It works by creating a secure virtual tunnel for your online data.
All the data that goes through this tunnel is encrypted, and therefore can’t be viewed by your ISP and other third parties.
Solid AES-256 encryption that premium VPNs provide can also prevent your data from being corrupted or stolen by hackers.
Except for privacy and protection, VPNs can be used for a variety of other purposes.
APN Vs. VPN: Main Differences
Now that you know that an APN and a VPN are two different technologies, let’s take a closer look at 3 significant differences between them.
These differences can help you determine which technology will suit you best.
1. Internet connectivity
As we’ve mentioned earlier in the article, an APN is programmed into your phone, and it enables your phone to establish a wireless Internet connection.
Unlike an APN, a VPN has different functionality.
It can’t provide you with an Internet connection, but what it gives you is the security of your online connection.
So let’s break it down.
Without an APN on your phone, you can’t connect to the Internet or a VPN itself.
Without that considerable layer of security that a VPN provides, you lack proper protection of your data, which makes you an easy target for hackers or snoopers.
So, when it comes to mobile phones, you need to use an APN and a VPN together.
With laptops and PCs, it is unlikely that you will have to deal with an APN, as it was primarily designed for phones and IoT devices.
However, you can still use a VPN on your PC or a laptop to protect your sensitive data at all times.
While VPNs have been built for privacy and security in the first place, APNs’ security is mostly determined by the service provider or a vendor.
And that’s the second significant difference between the APN and VPN technologies.
With an APN, you can’t be 100% sure that your online data won’t fall into the wrong hands.
On the contrary, if you stick with a reliable VPN provider, you have a 100% guarantee that all your online communication is properly protected.
Well, of course, APNs do not always mean your information is less protected.
And, there even exist custom APNs that let you configure the security of your online connection.
But all in all, APNs serve their own purpose, which is less of security and more about the stability of your Internet connection.
So, it’s always better to use a VPN if you want to play it safe.
And, of course, avoid free VPN providers, as the protection they claim to provide is very questionable.
Third and the last significant difference between VPN and APN technologies is scalability.
What we mean by scalability is the way both technologies can handle network overloads.
The thing here is that with an APN, you share your network with thousands of users who, same as you, bought a wireless data plan.
All of them have access to the APN of their mobile carrier and can use the network anytime they want.
This often creates network balancing issues during holiday events and other special calendar days.
With a VPN, things get slightly better.
If you use a reliable VPN provider, you have hundreds or thousands VPN servers to choose from.
These servers are located all across the world, and even in the same region, there can be plenty of servers you can connect to.
So, for example, if you've connected to a server in New Jersey, and you experience poor connection speed, you can connect to a server in Dallas.
The server in Dallas works just fine as it’s less loaded.
So, when it comes to a VPN, you get access to something an APN can’t provide.
Of course, the number of VPN servers and their availability can vary from provider to provider, so it’s better to check everything out before subscribing to a particular VPN service.
Wrapping Things Up
APN and VPN are two different technologies designed to serve particular purposes.
An APN lets you establish an Internet connection on your mobile phone or an IoT device, whereas a VPN secures online connections of its users.
VPNs and APNs are different in terms of Internet connectivity, security, and scalability.
An APN provides weaker protection than a VPN or doesn’t provide it at all.
You have to use and APN and VPN together to be confident in the security of your online data.