Zmbizi smartphone offers users lots of ways to make a buck

The ad-displaying home screen on the phone, the first to accept contactless payments, provides a gateway into a portal filled with different ways to generate funds deposited to its bundled stored-value card.
Written by Ross Rubin, Contributor

Recent months have seen an escalating showdown between Apple and Facebook regarding the future of data on the smartphone even as Apple is stepping up its own ad efforts and Google is struggling to win support. One thing's for sure, though. Regardless of whatever benefits your data may provide about you as an individual, as part of a cohort, or in the aggregate, there's no chance that you'll be directly compensated for it from your smartphone maker.

That is, unless, you've been one of the first people to acquire the Z1 phone from Zmbizi, a startup aimed at enabling its users to monetize their actions in a bevy of ways. Indeed, while Apple is trying to reform credit scores via its Apple Card, the Zmbizi phone comes with a debit card in the box as a way of more easily accessing the funds generated from participating in activities presented on the phone.

These range from interacting with an unmovable ad circle on the home screen to taking part in a number of offers and activities on its home screen portal, including downloading apps. Each rewarded action results in cash being deposited into your Zmbizi card account. The smartphone startup may be aggressive about encouraging offers from its partners, but it's all ultimately up to the user. In fact, you can install a third-party launcher in place of Zmbizi's and have a fairly stock Android experience.

Zmbizi's income-generating features aren't just limited to the digital world, either. It is the first smartphone to be able to take contactless payments from credit cards as well as Apple Pay or Google Pay. So, whether the owner is a solopreneur or side-hustler, they can take and refund payments on the spot. With Apple having bought Mobeewave, a software company that enables such functionality, last summer, we can expect such functionality to become more widespread.


Those whose memory of Internet access devices extends back to the dial-up era may remember Free-PC, which provided consumers with a desktop computer that offered a screen bordered with ads at no charge. But Zmbizi isn't looking to offer a free or even ultra-cheap smartphone. Its current model is the first to offer a premium audio experience powered by THX and the company says its next model will be even higher end. Zmbizi, which says it is a Black-owned business, is modeling its approach after other businesses that have caught fire in the Black community such as Ciroc vodka, Beats by Dre, and Yeezy sneakers by offering "attainable aspiration."

In fact, the company is looking to go upmarket with its next device already in development. While the current model's transparent back, support for THX Spatial Audio (which includes an attention-grabbing startup sound that can't be disabled), and, of course, point-of-sale capabilities provide some degree of hardware differentiation, its Qualcomm 600-series processor and dual camera aren't likely to inspire much excitement. The company says it could also see its launcher making its way onto other Android devices as well as product line expansion into devices beyond the smartphone.

For now, though, the Zmbizi phone has launched in the U.S., where the carrier is king, and it remains to be seen if any of the major carriers would allow it to appear in its portfolio with its highly non-standard launcher, at least not without having prominent access to it. (Value carriers such as Cricket, Metro, Boost and Tracfone might provide a better home.) Until it finds a way into such a portfolio, Zmbizi is taking the direct route -- both in getting their users to buy the phone and in paying them back.


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