Phone Skope: Small-Town Startup Eyes Worldwide Success
by Alexa V. Morgan
photos courtesy of Phone Skope
Phone Skope, an emerging southern Utah-based company, is bringing the new frontier of smartphone photography and video into focus.
Tracy and Cheston Davis, from the town of Beaver, came up with the idea while deer hunting in 2010. They happened upon a mountain lion and tried to capture the rare sighting by holding a camera phone near the eyepiece of a spotting scope, but the images were blurry. The elder Davis set about creating a tool that would join the two devices and stabilize the phone while allowing it to use the magnifying capability of the scope.
He made the first prototype in his garage using sprinkler pipe, glue, and anything else on hand. It worked, and soon father and son were heading into a patent attorney’s office.
Phone Skope launched the following year. Bringing it to retail was a lengthy and often frustrating process. “We hit a lot of brick walls,” Cheston Davis admits. “Neither my dad nor I had ever done anything like this.”
Growth has progressed slowly but steadily over the last six years. Phone Skope was picked up by scattered mom-and-pop shops before scoring a deal with Sportsman’s Warehouse, their first national retailer. “Phone Skope branded product is a great seller,” says Johnathon Spens, hard goods manager at the St. George location. “I think Cheston and his dad had great vision to create and market a simple and relatively inexpensive product that would allow users to take telephoto photographs and video without spending thousands of dollars on camera equipment.”
Phone Skope is a two-piece system consisting of a phone-specific case and an optic-specific adapter. Universal and custom adapters are another option. “We have a kit that will work with nearly all phone and optic combinations,” says Tim Schreckengost, Phone Skope’s General Manager. “And if we don’t have it, there’s a good chance we can make it.”
The product is unique because of its specifics, explains Schreckengost, and popular due to its convenience. “It’s simple and very user-friendly,” he says. “You can be taking pictures in a matter of seconds.”
Today, customers can find Phone Skope in Walmart, Cabela’s, and Sportsman’s Warehouse locations across the country, as well as many smaller stores. Online retailers such as OpticsPlanet and Eagle Optics have picked it up. Cases cost $49.99, and optic adapters range from $27.99 to $38.99.
The full selection of kits is available at phoneskope.com. Phone Skope is also sold in Canada and the United Kingdom, with distribution in Australia and New Zealand forthcoming.
Sales are centered around hunting, birdwatching, and astronomy. Although the kits are primarily used with binoculars and spotting scopes, they are also compatible with telescopes and microscopes. Schreckengost says that Phone Skope has been approached by several companies regarding application in the medical field.
Phone Skope offers kits compatible with hundreds of optical devices and more than 60 smartphones, in addition to select GoPro and iPad models. Cases for newer phones, like the Google Pixel and Moto Z Force, are currently in production. More kits are created each month. “The smartphone industry is always changing, so we’re always trying to keep up and a lot of challenges come with that,” Schreckengost says. “The iPhone 7 has a dual camera, so we’re trying to give users the ability to choose which lens they want to use.”
While continually expanding their retail base, one of Cheston Davis’ main goals for his company this year is engineering an everyday phone case that can transform into a Phone Skope case. Customers will be able to easily remove the piece that attaches to the optic adapter when not in use. “We’re never satisfied with where we’re at,” he says. “We’re all about furthering our knowledge and making our product better so the user can get more and more out of it.”
Phone Skope is an authentic southern Utah startup. A staff of 12 oversees day-to-day operations at their headquarters in Beaver, in addition to an outside sales team. Manufacturing is handled through a factory in St. George. Tracy Davis and his son serve as Chief Financial Officer and CEO, respectively.
Spens, who attended Beaver High School with Cheston Davis, recalls his classmate as hardworking and tech-savvy, with enviable people skills. “I’m confident that the success Phone Skope has had is due largely to that same work ethic and vision for the future,” he says.
Cheston Davis launched a new company, Ice-Olate, at the start of 2017. Its flagship product is The Cooler Tray, a patented drainage system to help keep food dry within ice chests, prolonging shelf life and reducing the risk of cross-contamination. “I’ve pretty much always been an entrepreneur, clear back to elementary school,” he says. “[I’ve] always been innovative; figuring out how I can better myself and thinking outside the box.”
With Phone Skope, his vision is to transform a first-person viewing experience into a memory that can be shared with a group of friends, or around the world using the magic of technology. “That’s why it started, and that’s why it’s where it is today,” Schreckengost says. “I think Phone Skope is going to be around for a long time.”