cell tower

Android gives users a whole lot of customization options, some of which are useful for everyone, while others are just for power users. One of these lower level settings is the Access Point Name—better known as the APN.

The APN is something most users won’t need to worry about. You pop your SIM card into your phone, maybe reboot it, and it connects to your carrier’s network. You’ll be able to make calls, send messages, browse dank memes, and other important things. But, if you still mess around with custom ROMs, or you’re using an MVNO, you may find that things don’t work automatically.

What is an Access Point Name (APN)?

The APN is all the information your phone uses to connect with your carrier’s network. It lists the address your phone uses to connect to the network, the ports used to handle Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) messages, the type of data that particular APN uses, and other pieces of information to make sure your phone works correctly.

Some of the settings—-like “APN Type”—could be optional, and your phone will still work without it being 100% correct. Others like “MMSC” and “APN” are much more important, and your phone won’t function if they aren’t entered correctly.

Thankfully, most phones have the APN for common carriers built-in, so all you need to do is put your SIM card in and let your phone work its magic. This extends to some prepaid carriers as well: I use Mint Mobile, which runs on T-Mobile’s network. When I pop my SIM into my Google Pixel 2 XL or my Samsung Galaxy S8, it just works. The phones already have the APN, and it knows which one to load to connect to a given network.

How To Add or Change Your APN

On the off chance that you do need to change your APN settings, it’s fairly easy to do. Start by opening the Settings app on your phone. The exact label of the menu will vary, but tap on whichever menu handles your network settings. On the Pixel 2 XL running Android 9.0, this is labeled as “Network & internet.” Then, tap “Mobile network.”

tap network & internet then tap mobile network

Tap “Advanced.” Scroll to the bottom of the menu, then select “Access Point Names.”

tap advanced then tap access point names

Tap the three-dot menu in the upper-right corner, then select “New APN.”

tap the three dot menu then select new apn

Your APN settings may be included in the package with your prepaid SIM card, or you may need to search for it. Enter the details exactly as they’re listed, then tap the three-dot menu in the upper-right corner, and select “Save.”

tap the three dot menu then select save

You may also need to make changes to an existing APN. To make these changes, tap on the APN you want to change. Tap on each category, then update the details as necessary. Tap the three-dot menu and select “Save” when you’re finished.

tap the apn you want to change then tap save

The APNs that come preloaded probably can’t be changed, and if you open them to see the details, you see each item grayed out. Tapping them to change them won’t do anything, so you’ll need to create a whole new APN if you want to change something.

edit access point screen showing options dimmed

Once the APN is set, you won’t have to change it again unless you switch carriers or factory reset your phone. Feel free to make calls, browse the web, and more!

Tom Westrick Tom Westrick
Tom Westrick has been writing about technology professionally since 2014, but he started poking and prodding at electronics as a teenager. His work has been published on Android Central, iMore, and Windows Central. When he's not writing, Tom is a Tier-1 Help Desk Technician, songwriter, and guitar player.
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