Walt Disney World has announced the MagicMobile service, a new contactless way to use features like theme park entry through iPhones, Apple Watches, and other smart devices. In this post, we’ll share details, address whether the MagicBand is dying, and also speculate on the future.
Launching in phases starting later this year, MagicMobile will be available via the My Disney Experience app, and added to the digital wallet of users’ smart devices once enabled. It works just like a MagicBand, with most features working by simply holding up your smart device near an access point. Disney MagicMobile service and its features will roll out first on Apple devices, like iPhones and Apple Watches.
Disney MagicMobile service will not replace the MagicBand. This is in addition to MagicBands, not instead of them. You’ll be able to pick whichever option works best for you during your Walt Disney World vacation. You can even use both, alternating between the two for added flexibility.
The one “exception” to Disney MagicMobile services is that the existing digital room key feature will continue to be available within the My Disney Experience app. This allows guests to expedite their arrival by using online check-in, going directly to their Walt Disney World resort hotel room, and using their phone to unlock their door. Alternatively, WDW hotel guests may also still pick up a Key to the World card at their convenience by visiting the front desk.
In addition to this, Walt Disney World announced that it will soon be introducing more MagicBands in trendy new colors and fun designs featuring favorite Disney characters and stories. (See New MagicBand Upgrade Optionsfor a look at the 50+ styles already available–when in stock.)
We’ve heard from many Walt Disney World fans who are concerned that this means the “death of the MagicBand.” That’s an understandable fear, especially coupled with Walt Disney World eliminating the complimentary solid-color MagicBands that were sent to resort guests pre-arrival.
Rest assured, MagicBands are not going anywhere anytime soon.
The free MagicBands were retired primarily due to cost and waste. The last I heard, MagicBands cost Disney a few dollars each. While I haven’t kept up on price fluctuations of RFID tags, plastic, or coin batteries since, the cost is presumably more or less the same. In isolation, that would arguably be worth it, especially given the higher perceived value of the perk among Walt Disney World hotel guests.
However, there’s also the matter of waste. Anyone who is a member of Walt Disney World groups on social media has undoubtedly seen photos of Christmas trees adorned in MagicBand “garland” or other decorations. Despite trying to decline them in the past, we had each amassed over 50 MagicBands in our My Disney Experience accounts. (It got so bad that our accounts were barely functional and IT had to manually remove them from the backend.)
I’ve refrained from sharing this in the past as it’s very much an “unpopular opinion,” but I’m totally fine with Walt Disney World reducing waste. That’s my stance even though I think much of this is actually motivated by cost-savings and not a sincere desire for more environmental sustainability. Although humans enjoy tangible things and Disney fans in particular love to collect stuff, there’s simply no need for so much of this.
However, I do wish that each cutback had a corresponding perk added. That way, they would not be met with quite as much resistance, as they’d be 1:1 changes. Instead, they’re understandably (and accurately) viewed as monetary savings for Disney that are not passed on to guests. But I digress.
Anyway, the reason MagicBands won’t go away anytime soon are similar reasons–Walt Disney World fans love to collect stuff and humans love tangible accessories. More to the point, MagicBand related products sell incredibly well.
While the profit margin on the basic colors is pretty thin, that’s not true of the limited edition or special ones, which are priced significantly higher yet have roughly the same costs for Disney. MagicBands are also relatively small, with the entire selection taking up very little valuable real estate in Walt Disney World stores.
MagicBands are unlikely to go away because Walt Disney World fans love them and the adoption rate of the devices has been quite high, even now that they’re no longer free. Beyond collecting the colors and styles, MagicBands are also a more practical solution for those who do not have smart phones, such as small children and elderly individuals. These are two groups that make up a large portion of Walt Disney World’s guest demographics.
In a nutshell, MagicBands will continue to be sold until they stop selling.
And given the response we’ve seen from Walt Disney World fans to this news, that’s not happening any time soon. There are basically two camps here, with a reaction that’s pretty evenly split. First, those who are deeply invested in the Apple ecosystem and are excited about being able to use their phone or Apple Watches for more convenience at Walt Disney World.
The second is people who feel they’re already looking at screens too much while on vacation and want to disconnect more. This group prefers the simplicity of the MagicBand. Many in this group have also had issues with this type of functionality in My Disney Experience, particularly the digital room key feature in My Disney Experience. (In our extensive experience, that feature is very temperamental and spotty.)
While these two groups are pretty much mutually exclusive in Walt Disney World fan circles…we fall into both camps. We’ve become vehemently anti-screen when traveling, wanting to “live in the moment” and be more present. We’ve gone so far as to uninstall most social media apps from our phones and set time limits on other apps. (Not that you care, but this has been incredibly successful at weaning us off them.)
For us, part of this decreased screen time has been accomplished via the Apple Watch. It can quickly do a lot of things that are more elaborate processes on the phone, and it also functions as a digital wallet. From fitness tracking to productivity, Apple Watches are among the best purchases we’ve made in years. But this is not an advertisement for the Apple Watch. (At least, not a paid one!) Again, I digress.
What I do wonder is whether the Disney MagicMobile service is the groundwork for more far sweeping changes in the Walt Disney World experience. The announcement specifically stated that MagicMobile is “launching in phases.” That could just be in reference to it first debuting for Apple products before presumably being launched for Android devices, or it could be because this is the groundwork for something bigger.
Both Disney CEO Bob Chapek and Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Josh D’Amaro have repeatedly stressed their desire to reset and make significant operational changes that paradoxically will improve the guest experience but wouldn’t have been accepted by fans pre-closure. In Disneyland, this has meant the suspension of the Annual Passholder program. At Walt Disney World, this has been all about new and different types of technology.
Walt Disney World has undoubtedly invited distinguished scientists from all over the world to come and work on this technology. Unfortunately, none of them showed up…so we’re stuck with this duo developing Disney’s IT.
(That’s a joke to meet our monthly quota of MuppetVision references, but it would literally explain so much.)
Ultimately, we’ve already seen many of these changes. Things like the expansion of Mobile Order, Merchandise Mobile Checkout, Table Service To-Go, and Walk-up Waitlist are all solid improvements to the experience that have sort of been “forced upon” guests during the phased reopening. More is almost certainly on the horizon in the lead-up to October 1, 2021.
While the Disney MagicMobile service will be integrated into the My Disney Experience app, there’s nothing to say that will always be the case. To the contrary, the MagicMobile service could function as a bridge between the My Disney Experience app and the Disney Genie app. In the updated When Will FastPass+ Return to Walt Disney World?post, we’ve already speculated that the Florida parks might transition towards a MaxPass style system. While MagicMobile differs from Disneyland’s approach, it could be a step in that direction. We’ll keep you posted on subsequent develops and future rollout of the Disney MagicMobile service!
Will you use the new Disney MagicMobile service, or stick with MagicBands? Which of the two camps do you fall into? Think this is simply a standalone feature, or laying the foundation for Disney Genie to replace the My Disney Experience app? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!