Comparing Universal's TapuTapu vs. Disney's MagicBands
February 9, 2017, 12:57 PM ·
The Walt Disney World Resort has been offering a wearable admission device, called MagicBands, since 2013. Replacing wallet cards that could be used as hotel room keys and theme park admission, MagicBands also work as ride-reservation Fastpasses and as your ID for Disney's PhotoPass service. Now, this spring, Disney's rival Universal Orlando will introduce its own wearable device, the TapuTapu.
How will Universal's TapuTapu compare with Disney's MagicBand? Which one offers the more useful and convenient accessory for your Orlando theme park vacation? Let's break this down!
Uses: While Disney's MagicBands can be used throughout the Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando's TapuTapu works only within the resort's Volcano Bay park. Disney created the MagicBand to free guests from having to carry wallets or pursues around the resort. With the MagicBand, people staying at a Walt Disney World resort hotel can use the wristband to get into the parks, access Fastpass return queues, pay for meals and souvenirs, and get into their hotel room. With a PhotoPass package, the MagicBand even frees you from the need to carry a cell phone or other camera, as you can have Disney's photographers take your pictures in the park and the MagicBand will ensure those photos end up in your account.
The only major thing that a MagicBand can't do is handle annual passholder discounts. You still need to carry and show your AP card for that.
The TapuTapu, on the other hand, functions mostly as a virtual queueing device. It will tell you when you can return to an attraction, but won't get you into the park or your hotel room. And it's not associated with any credit card or room account, so it can't be used for payment or AP discounts in the park. You'll still need a wallet for that.
Functionality: The MagicBand is essentially an RFID chip that you wear on your wrist. It doesn't broadcast or receive information like a cell phone. It just tells a receiver a unique ID number when it gets close enough for that receiver to detect it. (For example, when you tap it at the front gate or a Fastpass entrance.) Disney's computer systems presumably then look up that number and check it against its ticketing, Fastpass, or PhotoPass systems to see who you are and if you are eligible to do whatever you're trying to do with your MagicBand.
Universal's TapuTapu might have some transmission reception capability, since Universal is saying that the TapuTapu will alert you, wherever you are in the park, when it's your time to return to an attraction. The alternate way the TapuTapu could do this is with an internal timer that just counts off the time the attraction tells the device to wait when you tap in to claim your space in the virtual queue. We don't know which method Universal is using at this point. The TapuTapu also will have the ability to trigger animations and water cannons in the park, so we presume there is some RFID functionality that would trigger those receivers, too.
In order to tell you it's time to return to an attraction, the TapuTapu will have a display screen, unlike the MagicBand. If you want to see your attraction return times while using a MagicBand, you'll need to use the My Disney Experience app, which manages all that account information associated with your Disney vacation. There's no app to use with the TapuTapu.
Cost: Disney's MagicBand is folded into the cost of a Disney hotel stay, so there's no extra charge for on-site hotel guests. It's also provided free of charge to annual passholders. Day guests have to pay to get a MagicBand if they want one, though they can use their admission card to get into the park and Fastpass queues if they don't want to pay for the wearable device. The TapuTapu is folded into the price of Volcano Bay admission, so there's no extra charge to anyone for using it and it appears that it will be a requirement for anyone visiting the park.
Aesthetics: Now we enter the realm of personal taste. The original MagicBand was simply a colored plastic-looking wristband, though the next-generation MagicBand 2.0 modifies the design with an embedded "icon" that gives the wristband a bulge on the top, making it look a bit more watch-like. That functional icon can be removed and placed into a bracelet or other item, giving you a bit more fashion flexibility with the device. The TapuTapu, on the other hand (pun intended — I can't wait to count how many Orlando visitors walk around with a MagicBand and a TapuTapu on either wrist), looks more like a tropical-themed, plastic Apple Watch.