Dr Iain Livingstone, of Glasgow Centre for Ophthalmic Research, and Dr Mario Giardini, at the University of St Andrews, have been central to the team that has developed Peek - a smartphone app which uses the devices' high-spec cameras to diagnose poor eye health in remote areas.
Around 5000 patients in Kenya are testing the technology, with the results being compared to those achieved using the best hospital equipment.
Traditional testing requires equipment that costs more than £100,000 and needs around 15 trained staff to use, the Peek team claim.
By contrast, using the app doesn't require the need of an eye expert as the images are sent on the smartphone by email or text message to consultants based the world.
They are then able to return diagnostic results to the patient at the touch of a button. Dr Livingstone said: "We knew when we held it up to the eye and the retina lit up that we were on to something.
"Some of the phone cameras are so advanced that it's not like using an ophthalmoscope where the optician is right up in your face. The phone camera has an auto focus to find the detail for you. It certainly will help expedite eye care in the developing world."
The GPS technology installed on the phones allows researchers to build up a geographical picture of patients and their ailments.
It also allows the targeting of mass treatment campaigns to the regions of greatest need. The research team, which is being led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, hope to further develop the smartphone app to offer eye tests for children in the developing world, which are currently very expensive.
Dr Livingstone said that patients would be able to receive their results given that mobile phones would now be present in most villages, with the devices more prevalent than fresh drinking water in parts of the developing world.
He also added that the technology could be useful for GPs in speeding up the diagnosis of conditions such as brain tumours.
Around 285 million people worldwide are visually impaired and 39 million of these people are blind.
Research shows 90% of blind people live in low-income countries and 80% of blindness is avoidable.
Peek can diagnose blindness, visual impairment, cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and other retinal and optic nerve diseases. The technology is also being tested in Antarctica, where an expedition team is assessing whether their eyes and vision change with the prolonged exposure to cold and darkness.
As the conditions are considered a surrogate to life in space, the data will aid space programmes.