Last month during a stockholder meeting, Disney CEO Bob Iger reflected on the use of MagicBands at Walt Disney World, saying "Because technology keeps moving onward and improving, we're looking at all different ways to expand the [MyMagic+] program, both in Orlando and our other parks around the world." Iger then went on to add. "It won't necessarily be through physical MagicBands, since mobile technology and personal mobile devices can offer a lot of the functionality that a lot of the bands we created offer."
Some (including the Orlando Sentinel most recently), have taken these statements as an admission that the MagicBand project is essentially a failure and the future of MyMagic+ (or whatever system Disney eventually replaces MyMagic+ with) will use smartphone technology instead of MagicBands to facilitate everything from front gate admission to claiming Disney Dining Plan entitlements
On the surface this seems plausible enough, especially as Disney has confirmed that when the brand new Shanghai Disney Resort opens later this year, MagicBands will not be in use at this park. Couple this with the fact that MagicBands (or any component of MyMagic+ for that matter) has yet to roll out at Disneyland Resort in California, and you'd be forgiven for thinking that MagicBands are indeed, an expensive failure that Disney would rather leave in the past.
However, though there have certainly been some downsides to MagicBands (and the MyMagic+ system in general) the idea that MagicBands will one day be replaced by RFID-enabled smartphones at Walt Disney World is a little short-sighted and impractical for several important reasons.
1. MagicBands are more than just a ticket
One of the biggest surprise successes of the MagicBand system at Walt Disney Word was how quickly MagicBands went from ticket and FastPass+ redemption device to collectible item. Almost as soon as Disney began testing MagicBand designs with character art, guests responded instantly, snapping these specialty MagicBands up almost as soon as they hit shelves.
In the months that followed, Disney began testing different types of "collectible" MagicBands, including limited release, limited edition and even park- and event-specific bands. Surprisingly, almost each one of these specialty MagicBands was a success, with guests rushing out to purchase these items in the same way they would pins, Vinylmations, or any other collectible item.
Perhaps the ultimate indicator of the success of MagicBands as a collectible item (and accidental fashion accessory) is the success of the D-Tech custom MagicBand pop up shops. Though the idea of custom MagicBands started small with a test last year at the Magic Kingdom, the overnight success of the first D-Tech Me MagicBand shop quickly prompted expansions to Disney Springs and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in just a few months (with more likely to come later this year). Walt Disney World guests seemingly can't get enough of MagicBands, and that fact alone could keep them around in the face of competition from other devices, particularly because...
2. You can't monetize a smartphone
Though there's no official data on how many MagicBands the average guest at Walt Disney World purchases, the numbers have to be pretty generous for Disney to keep investing in new pop-up shops and releasing new MagicBand designs every few weeks.
Given what a huge profit generator MagicBands seem to be for Walt Disney World, the idea of abandoning this program and implementing a system where consumers simply use their smartphones instead of MagicBands would be a big profit loss, as there's no way for Disney to monetize other people’s phones. MagicBands are unique in that they represent the first time in Disney history guests have been willing to pay extra for a specific “ticket” design (and do it more than once in many scenarios). For Disney to abandon something that brings in this type of "easy" revenue in favor of letting consumers bring in and use their own devices (which Disney doesn't sell) seems illogical.