Using cell phones as room keys isn't anything new in the hotel business — several chains have offered keyless entry at newer (or newly renovated) properties for some time now. But this will be a first for Disney, which invested millions in developing its MagicBand system to replace hotel keys and keycards at its hotels in Central Florida. So was spending all that money on MagicBands a waste if cell phones eventually could do the same thing?
I don't think so. The real magic behind the MagicBand isn't the band itself. It's the technology that allows you to open your hotel room, get into the park, get your Fastpasses, and pay for stuff by tapping just one device, whether it be a MagicBand or a cell phone. Tying all those IT systems together to accept input from a common tap-and-read device is what cost the really big bucks. What that specific thing you tap is, ultimately, irrelevant to your experience.
And at this point, the MagicBand continues to do more than a Disney World guest can do with the resort's official app, including tapping into Fastpass+ return queue and charging meals and souvenirs back to your room account.
Even if Disney evens up the functionality between its mobile app and the Magic Band, that MagicBand will continue to offer some big advantages over a cell phone. A lost MagicBand costs a lot less to replace than a lost mobile phone, to start. There's no danger of identity theft or having someone drain your home bank account with a lost MagicBand. And a MagicBand handles being dropped or drenched much better than most phones, too.
Yes, there's a flip side to all this. The core concept of the MagicBand was to lighten your load in the parks by having the MagicBand replace your wallet — with its credit cards, park tickets, room key, and Fastpasses. But with so many people carrying mobile phones with them into the parks anyway, the MagicBand becomes another thing to bring with you instead of the only thing, as it ideally was supposed to be.
Now let's be honest — the idea that parents who schlep enough gear through the parks to weigh down a Sherpa ever could reduce their load a single device is the real fantasy of a Disney vacation. At least the MagicBand is easily accessible on your wrist, instead of something you have to fish out of a pocket, like a phone.
But, hey, let's go ahead and dream. If your phone might someday be able to do everything the MagicBand can, perhaps then some adults could make it their one-and-only device in the parks and leave the MagicBands for the kids. Who knows? But I'd like to have that option someday.Tweet
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