Do You Still Need a Magic Band at Walt Disney World?
At the start of 2021, Disney stopped a somewhat popular program.
From now on, Walt Disney World visitors must pay for MagicBands.
Obviously, these wearables don’t cost much money, but you’re still probably wondering.
Do you need a MagicBand? Let’s discuss both sides of this argument.
About the MagicBand
Roughly a decade ago, then-CEO Bob Iger attempted to solve a longstanding issue with park visits. He sought to minimalize the number of objects guests need.
Even during the early 2010s, park visitors needed to carry ID cards, wallets, park tickets, discount cards, room keys, and FastPass tickets, among other items.
Customers expressed frustration over the sheer volume of items they needed for Disney trips.
While those days seem long ago now, Iger couldn’t have anticipated the impending ubiquity of smartphones.
So, Disney’s leader tried to solve the problem with another emerging technology, the wearable.
The company outsourced the MagicBand project to Synapse Product Development, a decision that angered Imagineers.
These Disney inventors simultaneously worked on the MyMagic+ project, a suite of technologies designed to address “pain points” for guests.
Meg Crofton, the President of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts at the time, had requested solutions for such problems.
She’d run the idea up the flagpole and received support from Iger. However, Imagineers felt that outsiders wouldn’t understand the customer experience.
Synapse Product Development created the MagicBand, a technological innovation so impressive that Fast Company lauded it in 2014.
Yes, that MagicBand you wear at the parks claimed the title of best Innovation by Design that year.
A German company called Frog Design created the design you know so well.
Since then, the MagicBand has proven remarkably efficient and resilient, at least for 2014 technology.
Guests may use these items to pay for products, enter the parks, and qualify for discounts.
Why, the technology is so smart that when I visit a park, the system lights up a specific color, letting the cast member know to say, “Welcome home!”
Reasons to Use the MagicBand
I just listed a few, but let’s explore the utility of the MagicBand.
Thanks to the RFID radio and chip in this device, your wearable can communicate with receivers throughout the parks.
In most instances, a tap of your band will perform several vital tasks.
As mentioned, your MagicBand includes the information that proves you possess the appropriate park admission.
The system can even distinguish that you own an annual pass or have joined the Disney Vacation Club.
More impressively, the technology allows for the remission of payments. You attach a credit or debit card to your My Disney Experience account.
Then, when you’re ready to pay at various shops and restaurants, you’ll approach the special payment processor.
This device appears similar to a standard credit card machine, only it adds a second section where you can “tap” your MagicBand.
When you do so, the system recognizes your band and connects your payment to your card on file.
From a user perspective, all you must do is touch your band to the machine and then enter a four-digit passcode as a security measure.
Perhaps the most popular use of the MagicBand occurs at your hotel room. Your device unlocks the door.
There’s a rectangular pad by the door handle. You touch your band to it, and voila! It’s like you’ve said open sesame and performed a bit of magic!
Obviously, all these abilities provide ample reason to use a MagicBand. It’s a one-size-fits-most wearable that eliminates the number of items you must carry.
Reasons Why You Don’t Need a MagicBand
As I referenced, something changed during the past several years. In 2010, 27 percent of the population owned smartphones.
By 2013, that number had increased to 65 percent. Yes, by the time Magic Bands debuted, roughly two-thirds of the population owned smartphones.
You know where I’m going with this. As smartphones became ubiquitous, effectively extensions of some people’s arms, MagicBands grew superfluous.
Disney added functionality that performed many of the same actions for smartphones.
For example, you can unlock your door using your phone. You don’t even need to make contact, simply holding your device close to the lock.
Similarly, the pandemic forced many folks to alter their payment behavior. They learned how to use contactless digital wallets to buy things.
Of course, most people under 30 were already doing this. However, the health risks forced widespread adoption that likely wouldn’t have happened.
With the old dogs learning new tricks, many aspects of MagicBand usage have become superfluous.
For most of the rest, Imagineers have developed My Disney Experience mini-apps.
So, your smartphone plus this service will do virtually everything that a MagicBand can.
Do You Need a MagicBand?
I would have answered differently two weeks ago. At the start of the year, I felt the same frustration as other Disney fans.
Disney officially updated its policies such that it stopped giving away MagicBands. As someone who owns a (literal) shelf of them, that hurt.
For my most recent trip, I chose between three unused MagicBands, each of which I couldn’t wait to wear.
I love them for the style and what they say about me as a Disney fan. And I’m addicted to the convenience.
Alas, when I arrived at Walt Disney World, I appreciated how much the world has changed.
When Disney announced the MagicBand changes, they might have jumped the gun.
However, the pandemic has impacted consumer behavior so much that Disney looks prescient.
Whenever I tried to pay with my MagicBand rather than a smartphone, I slowed down the process. Cast members gave me the stink eye, too.
The overwhelming majority of people employ contactless payment now. By using a MagicBand, I still had to tap my wearable and enter a passcode.
My methodology actually felt less safe, too. I was participating in a high-touch process that smartphone users avoid.
After a couple of days, MagicBands became a game for me. I tried to think of ways that they enhanced my trip in a way that smartphones couldn’t.
I mostly failed. Other than theme park admission, my MagicBand had already turned into a relic, kind of like my Nintendo GameCube.
Yes, I still love it, but most of society has moved on to bigger and better things. Smartphones do everything that MagicBands do.
The most impressive technology of 2014 now seems as outdated as a Blackberry.
We no longer live in a world where MagicBands are necessary. I’ll still wear mine, though.