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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Disney tip boards go mobile

About a year ago, Disney announced they were working on a new application with Verizon where guests could get in-park information such as wait times, FastPass info and park hours through their cell phone.

About a month ago, Disney announced the new application finally was ready, and so http://m.disneyworld.com/ was born. There are two version of this new Web site, one is free and the other requires users to pay a subscription fee. To be more accurate, the Web site is free, while the smart phone application (called Mobile Magic) requires a fee, though some information in the Web site also is in the app.

It is important also to note that this is an app available ONLY to Verizon customers, meaning all those iPhones using AT&T service are shut out.

I've used the free Web-based version and while it's somewhat useful, it's pretty clear that Disney wants users to download the fee-based app. At first, m.disneyworld.com provided some limited wait time information, such as "see now," or "moderate." About a week or two after it launched, even this limited wait time information was removed. What's unclear about this "light" page is what constitutes a "see now" wait time versus a "moderate" or whatever. The Disney site doesn't specify.

UPDATE: Apparently just this week, the limited wait time and FastPass information returned to the free site.

The downloadable app offers updated attraction wait times and FastPass times for the park the user currently is located in. It also displays GPS-enabled park maps, showing the locations of attractions and restaurants. Also included are tips about different happenings in each park and trivia games to compete against other guests in the parks. That's about the most unique element of the downloadable app. Aside from the wait and FastPass times, a standard paper park map provides much of the same information.

I have not tried the Verizon app, mostly because of the price. What I've seen in demos, however, doesn't make me think that the $9.99 fee per six-months makes this app worth it. You read right, ten-bucks for six months access. That's 20-bucks a year! Further, I'm not much of a fan of restricting information based on location. From what I understand, if you're in the Magic Kingdom, you will not get as much information about wait times in any other park. I'm not sure what info is available when you're not at WDW at all. One things for sure - you're paying for 180 days of access whether you're in the parks or not.

Disney isn't the only group offering mobile-based wait and FastPass times. The folks at TouringPlans.com have recently launched "Lines," which provides wait-times and FastPass return times for all parks, regardless of location (in or out of the parks). Lines also provides park hours, crowd calendars and predicted wait times. The one thing Lines doesn't appear to provide (I couldn't find it) is event information, such as when Spectromagic or Fantasmic is showing.

The major differences between Lines and Mobile Magic are accessibility and price. Lines is completely web-based and so it's available to most popular devices (as of this writing, Lines is available for the iPhone, Blackberry, Android and Palm Pre/Pixl). Support for additional devices apparently is coming. Further, Lines (as of this writing) is FREE while in beta testing. Eventually it will require a subscription to TouringPlans.com. Those that own a current edition of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World (ding!) can get free access for a limited time. Non-book owners can subscribe for a yearly fee of $8.95. This includes access to Lines and to TouringPlans.com.

I have Lines on my Blackberry and it's a great service. I most especially like being able to see what wait times are like while being more than 700 miles away from the parks. For instance (as I pull up Lines on the BB), Space Mountain only has a 25 minute wait right now, and the crowd level is at a 4, which means most attractions are a walk-on!!

Knowing Disney, I'm sure they're planning to plus Mobile Magic pretty soon. At $20 a year, they need to put more value into such an expensive app. Disney also has to find a way to make this app available to iPhone users. While I don't have an iPhone (don't get me started), there are a gazillion Disney fans with iPhones who are excluded from even having the option to purchase this app.

At this point, if I had to recommend one -- sorry Disney, but I'm going with Lines - for the price (free right now) and the more-specific information, even outside the parks. The Disney free site is nice, but the information, even if it's free, is limited.

What are your thoughts? Do you have Mobile Magic and/or Lines? If so, post a comment -- do you like it?

2 comments:

yumeko said...

How you do you do?
I'm yumeko from Japan.
I write a blog about Tokyo Disney Resort at the part of the class.
I became a reader of your blog because we have a each hobby.
Glad to meet you.

Chris said...

Found your blog via Disney Geek Dad's blog list.

The funny thing about the Disney app is that it's only available on really outdated Verizon phones. So if you have a touchscreen phone or a Blackberry, it doesn't work (or didn't as of a few days ago). I actually got so frustrated that I went to the Verizon store to try to find out what was going on (I also needed a new phone, as I'd washed mine--oops) and the salesperson was floored when he couldn't find an actual phone in the store that it works on. I don't know if Disney rushed getting this out too soon or what. Maybe they wanted to compete with other services, like Lines or the new DisUnplugged eticket application (only for iphones). Next week I'll use Lines on a Droid. It seems to work really well. And no offense to Disney, but I figure the Touring Plans guys are pretty serious about wait times, so I trust them.

Still, I'd love to get the Verizon app and try it out. Am still checking the Verizon site, but so far, nothing.

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