Walt Disney World Just Took A Major Step Toward Ending MagicBands

Since the opening of Epcot almost 40 years ago Walt Disney World has presented itself not only as a vacation destination but as the vacation destination. There's no real need to go anywhere else when you're at Disney World as the theme parks, shopping, dining, and anything else you might want to do are all available in the one place. With so much available, making it all easy and accessible was a major priority, and so Disney World introduced the MagicBand, an RFID chip on a wrist strap that worked as everything from your park ticket to your room key to your credit card. But after less than a decade of regular use, Magicbands are seemingly on their way out, and that process really began today.

Today Disney announced that the first phase of MagicMobile has officially begun, which will give your cell phone or other smart device the same abilities as MagicBands. Today's launch only gives this ability to iPhones and Apple Watches, but the ability will be rolled out to other smart devices soon.

Now guests can set up a special MagicMobile Pass in their Apple wallet which will give users the ability to enter the park with a valid ticket, unlock the door of their resort room, connect their PhotoPass, and access the virtual queue for Rise of the Resistance. The ability to charge purchases to your Walt Disney World resort room is not currently available but will be added later.

I was able to use the ability to unlock my hotel room door with my phone during a recent trip to Walt Disney World. However, at that point you had to access the My Disney Experience App to get that functionality. With the new MagicMobile, the system works like using Apple Pay or similar systems where you don't actually need to even unlock your phone, simply move your phone close to the appropriate sensor and it all works.

While MagicBands certainly still work, and the official announcement from Disney on MagicMobile is sure to point out that the resort hasn't given up on them yet, the decision to let guests use their smart devices instead of a MagicBand follows on the decision to no longer give MagicBands to resort guests for free. It was an easy way to get people to use the device, and potentially buy more of them in different designs, but now there's much less incentive to use MagicBands, and it seems likely that they'll be phased out entirely at some point. On the plus side, I guess it's nice that the Apple Watch will give you this functionality, as that means it will essentially still work like a MagicBand, just the world's most expensive MagicBand.

It's really unfortunate honestly, because MagicBands were specifically designed to make things simple and convenient for guests and they were incredibly successful in that regard. If you were on vacation at Disney World the band did everything for you and it was easily available on your wrist. You could leave your wallet in your hotel room safe if you wanted because you didn't even need it. The MagicBand did it all.

I brought an old MagicBand with me on CinemaBlend's recent trip to Walt Disney World and I still really find the device more convenient than any other option. Between regularly checking wait times, ordering food via Disney World's mobile dining system, and just doing the work one can do from a smartphone, by the end of each day my phone battery was on fumes. And this was at a time when I didn't even need to regularly check availability for FastPass+ too.. The MagicBand still seems like a much better option then making guests rely on their phones.

Now the phone does it all, but it means fishing it from your pocket whenever you need it, and if you need to use your phone for other things, like checking wait times on the Disney World app or making food reservations, one hopes your battery doesn't die.

This also follows the announcement that Disney would discontinue the Magical Express, the free transportation to the resort from the Orlando airport, beginning on the first of next year. Yes, it was a program designed to keep guests at Disney World for the financial benefit of the company, but it really was easy to use. Now there's just less incentive to make Walt Disney World a one-stop vacation. If you're vacation will now add complexities,the least you can do is get more out of it.

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian, Dirk began writing for CinemaBlend as a freelancer in 2015 before joining the site full-time in 2018. He has previously held positions as a Staff Writer and Games Editor, but has more recently transformed his true passion into his job as the head of the site's Theme Park section. He has previously done freelance work for various gaming and technology sites. Prior to starting his second career as a writer he worked for 12 years in sales for various companies within the consumer electronics industry. He has a degree in political science from the University of California, Davis.  Is an armchair Imagineer, Epcot Stan, Future Club 33 Member.