Cell phones vs. MagicBands: Which offers more for theme parks and their fans?
Starwood Hotels' Aloft brand soon will enable visitors to use their cell phones as their room keys
at two of its hotels, allowing guests to bypass the check-in desk entirely. (Which also means that those hotels can do away with maintaining and resetting electronic room keys.) By the end of next month, visitors simply will tap or scan their smartphones to enter their rooms.
Disney and Universal both are developing alternates to the traditional room key for guest access on their properties. Disney's already started rolling out its MagicBand system, which integrates a room key, theme park admissions, charging privileges, and reservation management in an RFID-enabled wristband. Meanwhile, Universal has filed a patent application for a system that could use cell phones and/or wristbands to replace theme park admission media and reservation tickets. (Universal Orlando's hotels are operated by Loews Hotels.) SeaWorld's also begun enabling the use of cell phones for theme park admissions.
But here's the question: Would theme park fans rather have a dedicated "thing" for admission access, such as Disney's MagicBand, or would they prefer simply to use their cell phones for those tasks? It's literally a billion-dollar question, as Disney's said to have invested that amount in its "NextGen" project, for which the new MyMagic+ access system is the centerpiece.
The answer to that question will help resolve whether Disney made a costly mistake in pushing ahead with MagicBands, rather than waiting for the hospitality industry to develop a industry standard for the use of cell phones as room keys. If Starwood's trail works well, the chain could move to implement the system at its other brands, including Sheraton, Westin, Four Points, and W Hotels, which likely would push other major hotel operators to introduce the same functionality at their properties.
After all, the upside for hotels in supporting phone-based key media is to get the hotels out of the business of maintaining physical key media, as well as to reduce the amount of labor hours devoted to checking in guests at each of its hotels. Hotels would need to maintain some on-site personnel to handle problems and other customer service, but much of check-in support could be automated or handled by a central office, as airlines now do.
Switching one form of hard media (room keys) for another (wristbands) minimizes that payoff for hoteliers. You can still handle some of the check-in arrangements in advance, as Disney does with MagicBands, but you're still paying for all those wristbands. Why would Disney spend a billion dollars to do this?
Let's go to the medicine cabinet and pull out Occam's razor. Either Disney is impatient and/or foolish… or MagicBands are intended to support much more than admission and key media, justifying the extra expense in developing this custom system.
That's a hypothesis we've offered before, but that sometimes get lost in fans' complains about MyMagic+. Sure, you could use a cell phone to get into your room, or a theme park, or to confirm your reservation time at a ride, restaurant, or show. But what if a theme park wanted to enable something to react to you, without requiring you to do anything more than enter a designated area?
Mobile technology experts long have predicted that manufacturers would equip mobile devices with RFID and NFC tags, and release programming structures to enable their use in applications. But who will makes the rules and exercise the control over that access? The manufacturer? The user? The application developer? The manufacturers, developers and/or users collectively, via government?
By developing its own system with MagicBands, Disney becomes the manufacturer and developer, consolidating its control of the use of the system. And Disney's limiting its users ability to control their MagicBands. You can make reservations, but can't turn them on or off or limit which readers can access them, they way you might with a cell phone-based system.
Fans can argue about privacy, though businesses long have tracked customers on their businesses property (say 'Hi' to the security cameras, everyone!), but fans also ought to admit that such as system opens immense potential for creative use by park designers. Imagine attractions, even landscapes, that adapt to the visitors within them. How about a Star Tours-like ride that, instead of selecting randomly from 54 potential ride combinations, is designed to deliver a combination that no one on the ride has experienced before? How about interactive park signs that change to point you toward the location of your upcoming reservation time? Or a Men in Black-like ride that offers more advanced levels of play for experienced riders? The gamification of theme parks could begin.
Would that be possible with an admission system based upon another company's cell phones, regulated both by industry convention and potentially more restrictive government rules? Maybe, but maybe not. That's something fans should consider as they look toward the future of theme parks, and vacation travel in general.
Let's get the conversation started:
Using cell phones would have saved Disney over a billion dollars? That's a billion dollars that could have been used to expand ride capacity and add new attractions.
Waiting for Hotels to react could be a good idea to save costs, but there is no telling if it is adequate to do the task. Nor will we know if there will be an industry standard especially since you mention that Disney and Universal are also developing the technology.
Using cell phones wouldn't have saved Disney anywhere near a billion dollars. First, we don't know how much MyMagic+ represents of the $1 billion NextGen spending. Second, much of the MyMagic+ spending is on the backend data infrastructure and management system that would be required whether you use cell phones or wristbands or anything else.
what if you don't have a cell phone? I guess you just can't stay at a hotel or visit a park.
In 2011 my family and I went to Niagara Falls and spent a night at Great Wolf Lodge. When we checked in each person was given a wrist band with a RFID chip, this acted as both your room key and admission to the water park. We liked them in that you never had to worry when you left the room if someone had the key as you all did. That is what I see as being an advantage of wrist bands over cell phones, our youngest son was 10 years old and didn't have a cell phone, yes we are cruel parents for not giving a child a cell, but he did have a wrist band and could let himself into the room and not have to wait for someone else to catch up to him.
I really would have liked to see a "Neither" option, though I'm guessing that would have gotten a lot of votes. This whole thing seems like they're working really hard to replace something that isn't needed.
Most international guests, myself included, turn off data roaming when travelling overseas. This would render the "phone" option almost pointless.
I don't like the wristbands, but I'm really not loving the idea of the phone. I'm one of the few people who doesn't carry my phone into a park -- I don't want to have to worry about it getting damaged on a ride or doused on a log flume. And I agree with the previous posters who mentioned everyone in the family not having a phone or international folks with their phones disabled.
Why is Disney spending over a billion dollars on their "Next Gen" Technology instead of using that same billion dollars to expand ride capacity and build new attractions?
I think one big thing to consider is thedifference between normal hotels and family destinations like disney.
Well, I have spent some time at the Blue Lagoon Spa in Iceland. They have had "magic bands" for at least 12 years. That was the first time I went and they had them then.
I'm surprised by the poll results. I assumed it would have been overwhelmingly in favor of cell phone use. I am not excited about my future wristband tan line with these new magic bands and will most likely pick the card version instead.
As awesome as cell phones are there are a few things that these guys need to think about:
It seems obvious to me that when the cell phone use comes into play at other resorts that if you do not have a cell phone you will be issued a room key card or other option. Of course they will not turn you away if you do not use a cell phone.
@Dan Barnes -- I'm going to ask this, because I really want to know your take on it: but why don't people get paranoid about using a credit card and being "tracked"?
........I'm still wondering what was so wrong with the good ol' fashioned "regular park ticket/separate hotel key" way of doing things... I mean honestly. First its regular tickets, then its super magic wrist bands, then cellphones. Next it'll be contact lenses with the Disney logo imprinted in them.
I like wearing a see-through lanyard with my room key, park ticket and Express pass. We do go in and out of our room a lot in a single day, so a wristband would be cool to have.
In terms of the "smartphone" implication, even if it became an option, as others have said, this WILL NOT be a requirement. There are far too many factors that prevent this from being a requirement anywhere, anytime soon.
I think Robert is right that Disney would likely still be dumping a ton of money into the cell phone. So far, I have gotten a Magic Band every single time I have had a resort reservation. The bands must be dirt cheap.
How do some people keep phone battery all day? I have the new iPhone, so I would think it would be the best for battery. But if I am out and about, it's out of juice by around 2pm or so. I just do normal things with it like Facebook and text and take pics and videos. I am not on it constantly, but the power does not last.
Annette, the important aspect is the nature of the tracking, active or passive. Magic Bands RFIDs are active devices that send out a radio signal for 10, 20, 30 or 40 feet in all directions and any RFID monitoring devise can record your passing. Credit cards, annual pass cards with RFID, etc. are passive devises that only record your presence when you use it. The records are all "past" records and not "present" records. Also, you decide when you want to be recorded by your use of the card. Don't use it, no record, no tracking. These decisions are ours, not "theirs".
What is Disney going to do with the wealth of information they acquire from Magic Bands and "NextGen" technology?
In terms of Disney using cell hones or wrist bands I don't see there is any argument (for Disney).
I still don't see what the big problem is with Disney using the magic bands to collect data on spending habits. This just feels like how Amazon knows what I Google because of "cookies" on my computer from internet searches. Like, even on TPI, the ad banners are showing me right now an ad for a cruise (because I had been researching those) and an ad for WDW on the other side of the page. So, the adware used my activity to tailor messaging to me.
As a UK resident who doesn't need a cellphone over much since my workplace is also my home I would the to see phones become the way of everything. I have a smart phone but it's a relatively basic one, eats power like it's air so needs recharging constantly, and isn't that smart when all is said and done. Would I have to buy a more expensive phone just to enjoy a theme park or a hotel stay?
Any money that Disney spent on this will be made back with more guests wanting to stay on-site (as someone who usually stays off-site i would consider staying at Disney now for this) and all the wristband add-ons and attachments for personalising your band will make them money
Wristbands for sure. I hate using cell phones at parks. i mean, we use them all the time.i like getting away from the phones.That being said, i don't really care that much for the wristbands and would prefer the old legacy fastpass. I definitely would have wanted Disney to spend the billion dollars on rides instead.
To start of with, I can't believe someone mentioned tan lines from the MagicBands. Really? I hope that was a joke. Second, with the cell phones, this entire discussion it about using the RFID or NFC capabilities of cell phones, which would not use mobile data, so data plans or international roaming would not be an issue. I do know people who refuse to get smart phones though, and still use old flip phones. Those people would obviously need to be issued alternative keys/bands. Personally I prefer the MagicBand system, partially because my only cell phone is provided by my employer, and I very much like to turn it off and leave it in the room while I'm on vacation. Lastly, I can't believe people argue that the current system is good enough and doesn't need to be changed. If everyone thought like that then there would be no advancement, and we'd all still be driving around in Model T Fords, and Disney Land would have been just another amusement park. I think Disney is to be commended for trying to apply new technology to old issues. There will obviously be some growing pains. Bugs and kinks will need to be worked out, but it opens up so much potential to do some really cool things around the parks. I'm really looking forward to the day when it all comes together.
In the current climate, the MagicBand system is likely a better option than cell phone usage.
Wouldnt an RFID in a cellphone systems work with empty battery and definitly without data option on, as other rfid systems do? Those canteen payment cards etc dont have batteries. In my expirience so far, RFID payment works great. Those magnate card room keys often used at hotels these days in contrast....
Wristbands instead of cell phones. As was perviously mentioned those smart phone batteries don't hold a charge all day and not everyone has a smart phone. Also think of the kind of extreme rides some amusement parks have, a cell phone would be easily lost and damaged on those rides. If a wristband was damaged or lost it would be much easier to replace at the location it was lost at, with a cell phone one would have to find a store to get a replacement and then one would have to go through the whole setup to get back to where they were in relationship to the resort they would be staying at. Also don't think that ust because you are at DLR or DW that the likelyhood of a cell phone being lost or damaged is any less - my husband's phone was damaged on the Grizzly River Run at California Adventure and we watched some poor woman talking to the operators at the Peter Pan's Flight about her lost phone.
Either way, I would rather see Universal upgrade or expand instead if pouring any money into this. It seems Disney fans like the bands, but hate other aspects like only getting 3 FastPasses and not being able to reserve multiple rides in different parks on a single day.
My hope is in the "near" future, cell phones with data plans will be international. In the US, any person who gets a cell phone or home landline will get free calls anywhere within the country. You can call L.A. to Orlando without incurring any long distance charges. I was already notified that calls to Canada will be pennies per minute in the next few months.
Boy, did I ever like the last comment above, about redefining what an attraction is. That is a smart way of looking at stuff.
I think that you have to have multiple options. Not everyone has a Smartphone, not everyone wants a tractable wrist band, but you need to accommodate everyone. If you are worried about being tracked, do not own a Smartphone. Google, Apple, and many others use the GPS in your phone to keep track of where you are. Yes you can turn them off, but then you are disabling many of the great features of your phone. How often have you asked where the local eateries are or where you need to go. Disney needs to keep all options on the table and not cater to just the up to date attendee.
I second Rick Stevens points. Options tailored to guest preferences is what matters Disney must collect some information and not using that info for targeting sales to those customers would be a disservice to shareholders.
When talking about Magic Bands, another thing to keep in mind is how Disney plans to make make money off of them, as
WiFi is available throughout Walt Disney World.
These polls are misleading. You're askng us to choose between two lousy options. Why don't you add a third option: "NONE OF THE ABOVE"?
Cause that WiFi is not exactly reliable in the best circumstances. I was there last month, during a supposed 'slow time' (Dec 5-12) and WiFi was spotty at best. Sorry, but international guests could, conceivably, not be able to get onto the Disney WiFi.
Actually, neither. I stopped wearing a watch years ago because it bothered me, especially when it got hot and humid. I would prefer the option of the wrist band or an RFID card in a lanyard. Like others, I don't usually bring my cell phone into the park and the one I have is not very smart :-)
Neither. I stopped wearing a wristwatch years ago because it was uncomfortable, especially in hot humid weather. I would prefer the option to get an RFID card that I could put in a lanyard or in a protective sleeve in my wallet. As for cell phones, I also don't always carry mine and when I so, well mine isn't really so smart :-)
Robert Niles said:
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