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.

Replies (39)

February 9, 2017 at 1:23 PM · Also the Tapu Tapu has to be given back at the end of the day so it's only on loan

February 9, 2017 at 1:29 PM · Universal asks that you return the Tapu Tapu at the end of the day. You don't get to keep it. However I can imagine they will get through a lot unless at the exit there is some kind of reader that goes off saying "stop thief!" que the " opps I forgot to had it back!" Tee hee
February 9, 2017 at 1:56 PM · I voted for Taputapu because it didn't cost the $1.5 billion that Disney is rumored to have wasted on the entire Mymagic+ fiasco. $1.5 billion could have paid for 15 new E-ticket attractions. Bob Iger has thrown away billions on poor investment decisions. Why does he still have a job?
February 9, 2017 at 3:25 PM · To .... You're an idiot. No less a person than Steve Jobs evaluated the Magic Bands and said go for it. And before using terms like "thrown away" you might offer a detailed assessment regarding the Magic Bands ROI ... or you could embrace option 2 ... Which would be to shut up.
February 9, 2017 at 3:57 PM · Let's clarify something again. The $1.5 billion wasn't just for developing MagicBands. That was the reported cost of the entire NextGen initiative, of which MagicBands were just a part. The spending includes the expense of revamping WDW's IT to enable multiple systems to come together to power My Disney Experience. It includes the MDE app development and the infrastructure to support its use in the parks. And it included R&D on a bunch of interactive attraction technology, some of which we will see for the first time in Pandora.

So, again, Disney did not spend $1.5 billion on MagicBands.

February 9, 2017 at 4:04 PM · Annnnnnnnd ... BOOM!
February 9, 2017 at 4:05 PM · MagicBands hands down, especially because of all the things you can do with them that TapuTapu cannot, plus the fact ti can be used in every park.
February 9, 2017 at 5:28 PM · Damn you and your facts Robert. The auger haters don't want to hear those things. They just want to repeat what has been stated elsewhere. Big upfront investment but they haven't even scratched the surface yet.
February 9, 2017 at 6:12 PM · Wish you had a "neither" option in there. I hate to have something around my wrist due to arthritis.
February 9, 2017 at 7:10 PM · Tapu Tapu. The magic band (MM+) just promotes hyper planning which for many means strict schedules and a not-so relaxing vacation (and if you are with small kids... good luck), while the other is more about doing stuff when you want.
February 9, 2017 at 7:49 PM · Just returned from Disney World and used the new magic bands.....they're cards or wallet to carry.....the haters can just suck it
February 9, 2017 at 7:57 PM · Thank you Robert and TH creative

The nextgen initiative had to connect 30000 hotel rooms, hundreds of eateries and shops and dozens of attractions onto a new infrastructure and it wasn't going to be cheap.

Not only Steve Jobs thought this was a good idea but so did John Lasseter.

To anonymous posters get your facts and figures straight before sounding off online here or elsewhere.

February 9, 2017 at 9:02 PM · While this may change with time, as presented now MagicBands and TapuTapu seem to be two completely different products that happen to be similar in appearance. MagicBands are essentially a one device fits all, where you can use it for virtually everything at Walt Disney World. TapuTapu is a specialized system for Universal's queueless system, and appears to be functionally identical to Accesso's Qband found at many major waterparks (typically as an upcharge skip the line service). Given that, MagicBands are like a virtual pocket while TapuTapu is like a ticket book...there really isn't any valid comparison beyond appearance.
February 9, 2017 at 9:16 PM · Honestly, I'm excited for both parks to have wristbands like this. I think Universal is taking the water park to the next level. I feel that Volcano Bay is really going to round out the Universal Orlando site nicely. The Disney Magic Bands I feel are great. I love the open feeling of entering the parks. I love how easy it is to get a fastpass now. Didn't the 1.5 billion also cover the wifi as well? That is A LOT of routers they had to put in for that.
February 9, 2017 at 10:14 PM · I don't care how much the Magic Bands cost. I like the bands themselves. They are convenient for a room key, wallet, and ticket. What is horrible is how the new system is worse than the old system for ride management. With the old paper system I could take my family's tickets throughout the park and load up on fast passes all day. On a high volume day, we could experience over ten attractions with minimal wait. Now on moderate to low volume days, even the attractions with traditionally short waits have long lines. I am sure very smart people signed off on them, but they were not the Disney management of 20 years ago. As far as wait times go, it does not benefit the guest better than the old system. With the old management, that would have made it a no go. I chart wait times year round, and closely monitor them with the new system. If you go to the parks to only experience parades, shop, and five or six attractions, then the new system is fine. If you like to ride the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Carribean four or five times a day each, those days are gone. I will be very interested in how the TapuTapu works. I can tell you that the FP+ system has eliminated Disney from our family during traditional times, and I think they really need to drastically revamp the system. And, yes, I have no problem paying extra at Universal for the Express Pass. If I am going to spend a rediculous amount of money in Orlando, I want my family to actually be able to ride the rides. Paying extra is not perfect, but it is torture to go to Disney and wait 45 minutes for Speceship Earth when it used to be a walk on attraction. And as far as paying extra, the hotels at Universal that offer it are about the same price as the moderate ones at Disney.
February 9, 2017 at 10:34 PM · I voted MagicBands, mostly because the idea of having a wristband that can pay for your meals sounds really appealing for a waterpark, something TapuTapu lacks.
February 9, 2017 at 11:10 PM · That's a lot of money for a digital wallet. Personally I would have taken the 15 e tickets, or the 3rd gate in Anaheim lol.
February 10, 2017 at 2:32 AM · I'm continually amazed at the indulgence of a troll like TH Creative. Contributors like that cheapen the value of your site Robert.
February 10, 2017 at 4:59 AM · Magic Bands (and all the technology to enable them) was a waste of money to build something incredibly expensive when a simple solution was staring them in the face. Resort-wide wifi and a smartphone app could do much the same with a fraction of Magic Band's cost. You could have had the functionality that people enjoy with Magic Bands without the ridiculous cost. And where is this "amazing" NextGen technology that was supposedly going to make attractions interactive and speak the guests' names? Yeah, still hasn't happened and guests probably wouldn't care anyway if an HM ghost greeted them by name.
Wasn't it Staggs that took the fall for the Magic Bands fiasco? And it doesn't seem like the Bands are coming to DLR or the overseas resorts. If Bands were a big success and money-maker, wouldn't Disney be pushing for them to roll out worldwide?

Now at a water park, a smartphone app is not going to cut it wet-wise, but water parks have been using bands with money storage for years. It was never rocket science, though Tapu obviously does something different. Sounds interesting, we'll see how it works in practice.

February 10, 2017 at 5:57 AM · The only one of those features I care about is virtual queuing, so TapuTapu all the way. The sooner all parks move to a virtual queue system, the better.
February 10, 2017 at 6:16 AM · Well, magic bands can do more. Thats why I voted for them
February 10, 2017 at 9:20 AM · One thing I haven't seen mentioned: I was at WDW in January and noticed that they've started using Magic Bands to trigger a few small personalized touches on certain attractions. While little things, they are nice surprises and I have a feeling that they're going to be trying to find ways to have bigger/better/more of these over time.

February 10, 2017 at 9:27 AM · Rumor has it that the Tapu Tapu bands will be handled like the wheelchair and ECV rentals for the day. As in leave a deposit and return it to get your money back at the end of the day so if you happen to "forget" to return it, you will be charged.

I'm not so sure how that will go over though as you know people are going to want to keep them and not pay for the privilege.

February 10, 2017 at 9:31 AM · For years I have worked in technology and I cannot even fathom the "backup system" Disney must have in place for the magic bands. Your entire vacation depends on that little chip so imagine if there was a network outage or server compromise of some sort. Talk about bringing the entire resort to a halt. If Tapu fails, you might argue who is next to ride...but if magic band fails, you could die of starvation!! NO SOUP FOR YOU!! ;)
February 10, 2017 at 11:15 AM · I find it hilarious that people are getting so defensive over this. Honestly, I don't care either way considering it's unlikely I'll be going back to Orlando anytime soon and doubt we'll see these things at Disneyland in Anaheim and Tokyo (my go-to parks.) The only "magic" technology (outside of the rides) I really wish for is resort-wide WiFi.
February 10, 2017 at 11:45 AM · @, for every person like you (getting multiple FPs and riding attractions many times) there were several people that weren’t getting ANY FPs and just riding a few. FP+ kind of evened the playing field. So while you say “Now I can’t ride Haunted Mansion 5 times in a day” there is somebody else saying “I finally got to ride more than 2 rides in a day”.
February 10, 2017 at 2:45 PM · "To .... You're an idiot." - Name calling is frowned upon at TPI.
February 10, 2017 at 2:47 PM · "I'm continually amazed at the indulgence of a troll like TH Creative. Contributors like that cheapen the value of your site Robert." - Glad someone said it.
February 10, 2017 at 2:59 PM · >>>Rumor has it that the Tapu Tapu bands will be handled like the wheelchair and ECV rentals for the day. As in leave a deposit and return it to get your money back at the end of the day so if you happen to "forget" to return it, you will be charged.
>>>I'm not so sure how that will go over though as you know people are going to want to keep them and not pay for the privilege.

Thats SOP wherever I've picked up a Q-Bot device. Don't know why that would be a suprise.

February 10, 2017 at 3:14 PM ·

Not sure we're comparing Apples to Apples - Tapu Tapu is an off the shelf solution from Accesso with a few bells added on. Not a unifying solution like a Magic Band.

February 10, 2017 at 11:48 PM · Steve Jobs would have been the first to admit that he was often wrong. NextGen/MyMagic+/Magic Bands was one of those occasions where Jobs gave terrible advice.

Information technology is not a core competency of Disney. Other companies do it cheaper, faster and better. Disney should have stuck to its core competencies of entertainment and marketing. Iger himself now admits that in the future, Disney parks will use cell phones instead of Magic Bands:

Two simple questions: Was Nextgen/MyMagic+/Magic Bands the highest and best use of $1.5 billion? Would Fastpass+ really be necessary, if Disney had spent that $1.5 billion on 15 new E-ticket attractions instead?

February 11, 2017 at 2:26 AM · I not think their will be an electronic Devise that beeps on existing if a TapuTapu is present as EFID is only working on Distances under 0.7 cm. Simple the Team Member, that gives out Handstamps will controle!

You can compare The TapuTapu with the Thamagotchi at 6F Parks, that shorten or eliminate your wait time. Cool Difference: Univeresals Version is FREE and hopely the Future of Theme Parks!

Daniel: What is the 3rd Gate in Anaheim?

February 11, 2017 at 5:55 AM · "Free" ... not exactly, when paying for a $10 beer or a mixed drink that is 98% juice/ice with the liquor bottle cap waved over it.

This just seems like yet another delay in actually getting to the fun part of your day. Fight I-4/local road trafic to the parking hub, wait in line to pay to park, unload and queue for the tram over to Volcano Bay, go through security check, queue at the turnstiles to scan tickets ... and now potentially having to deal with a guest from each visiting group leaving a deposit for EVERY SINGLE TapuTapu. The lines will be WAY worse than any locker rental line at a water park. Not to mention the bottleneck when having to return them at the end of the day to retrieve your deposit, load back up and queue in what is sure to be a massive line to catch the tram back to the garage ... and for the grand finale, fight traffic to get out of Universal (which is already gridlock at IOA/USF closing without a 3rd park) and battle I-4's and local road's nearly round-the-clock congestion to get back home or to your hotel.

If you go during the summer water park season, what's left of your day when thunderstorms start rolling in at 1 or 2pm???

February 11, 2017 at 8:02 AM · Brian, you are right about people not fully using the old fast pass, but the other big point is that the current system makes lines long year round when they traditionally wouldn't be. On the old system, some rides did not use fast pass. They typically were high volume, quick loading attractions. Omnimovers are examples of this. The Haunted Mansion can move a lot of people through it, and that is why the Forbidden Journey can run through so many people. With the new system, it now has to accommodate two lines, one of which pauses the continually loading portion of one of the lines, so maybe they should only use FP+ on the most popular slower loading attractions as before.

Any system will allow some people to get good at it and some to not use it. Certainly, people continue to show up at the gates, and that is good for them. Not all guests care to ride as many attractions as my family does, but I think WDW is letting things get out of hand. Another solution along with a revamp is a fifth gate. Really, the perfect world for them would be like Universal but make it free if you stay on site, but that will never happen due to scale. They need to do something, though. Those eight hour waits just to get into Hogsmeade? That will be nothing compared to Star Wars. And imagine how upset people will be when they spend thousands to go to Orlando just to experience Star Wars, have a tiered FP+ system, and fly the Han Solo's spaceship once. By the way, I really should register for this site. I think I'll do that now.

February 11, 2017 at 3:08 PM · Off article point. T H often has some great points, then has to bust out 'you're an idiot'.
When you have 'insider' stamped on your profile on here we expect better articulation & maybe a bit of respect for all site users.
February 11, 2017 at 6:41 PM · Re: Jeremygary

Universal is not selling individual tickets just for Volcano Bay just yet.

Due to the limited capacity of Volcano Bay compared to IoA and USF in order to experience VB, currently one must buy a multi day ticket for Universal Orlando.

Honestly I would not be surprised if they never sell single tickets for VB or worst yet, make it exclusive for on site hotel guests and pass holders should ever hotel occupancy rates or passholder sales drops.

February 11, 2017 at 6:55 PM · As A.J. points out above, these products are designed to serve different purposes and a direct comparison is not really valid. It was successful in getting a lot of votes and comments though, so congrats on that.
February 11, 2017 at 7:18 PM · From TPI's rules for writers:
Personal attacks on other writers are not acceptable on Theme Park Insider. Do not submit posts that threaten, demean, humiliate, attack, or harass other writers on the site, or that use offensive or bigoted language. Anonymous comments may be submitted on blog posts, but are subject to approval before posting. Comments critical of any writers or other posts on the site cannot be made anonymously and will be rejected. We ask that all participants in the Theme Park Insider community treat one another with respect and a spirit of helpfulness.
February 13, 2017 at 9:33 AM · I really surprised TapuTapu is not being used for in-park payments. I'm pretty sure the Accesso band Uni is using has built in NFC (tap to pay) support. Was really looking forward to not having to carry cash/credit card while in the park.

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