Uber gets cozy with AT&T, using its network and preloading its app on Android phones

Typically we look at preloaded apps on our smartphones as carrier bloatware to be deleted or minimized, but a lot of people will have second thoughts about removing AT&T’s(s t) newest promoted app from their handsets. Starting this summer, Uber will come preloaded on all new Android phones sold by AT&T.

That isn’t the extent of Uber’s new relationship with Ma Bell, Uber co-founder and CEO Travis Kalankick said at the Code Conference in LA. Uber is moving its own drivers onto AT&T’s voice and data networks. The iPhones Uber distributes to all of its contractors will be configured for AT&T, which, according to Uber’s blog, will give it the coverage it needs to expand beyond its current urban city focus into the far flung corners of the U.S.:

Uber’s goal is to make sure that anyone can open the Uber app anywhere and be able to connect with a safe, reliable and seamless ride through the Uber app. We are marching toward UberEVERYWHERE, and to do it, we are moving beyond expansion to individual cities and simply toward coverage, maximizing the reach of the Uber network. Today, the Uber platform serves over 137,000,000 Americans (43% of the population in just 4 years) and AT&T will help power UberEVERYWHERE and our continued expansion.

AT&T lately has been delving deep into the connected car lately powering the 3G and 4G connections linking Tesla(s tsla), GM(s gm), Audi and many other automakers’ new infotainment and telematics systems. In many ways the deal with Uber is an extension of that strategy. Most of the Uber fleet may be unconnected but the drivers in them certainly are.

connected car logo

Though neither Uber nor AT&T went into specific details, AT&T may be providing more than just rote 3G and 3G links. It could be providing fleet tracking and logistics services that would help Uber manage its driver operations on a national scale.

As for the preloaded app, it’s really more a marketing relationship than a technology partnership. Carriers strike these deals with app developers all the time, and even if the app icon is on the home screen, AT&T customers will still have to register and load their credit card details into the app. But this deal could definitely put Uber in front of a lot more eyeballs previously unfamiliar with the car-hailing service, especially outside the core metropolitan areas Uber has traditionally focused on.