This summer, Disney Parks introduced the long-awaited MagicBand+. But, what, exactly, does the MagicBand+ do that the normal MagicBand can’t?
By Rebecca Davis
In addition to carrying on Disney’s commitment to adding a plus sign to the end of every noun, the MagicBand+ offers some new functionality over its predecessor. This includes light and vibration features, along with Bluetooth connectivity. You can read more of our coverage on those features here.
MagicBand Options and Cost
The MagicBand+ comes in a variety of color options and a handful of character and Disney Parks options, with more being added all the time. MagicBand+ ranges in price from $35-$55 on shopDisney, compared to MagicBand 2 which ranges from $29.99-$59.99. Solid-colored MagicBand 2 options are still available in the theme parks for less.
For guests with a Walt Disney World resort stay, the MagicBand+ is available to order for a discounted price through the My Disney Experience section of the Walt Disney World website. When bands are ordered through a resort stay, guests receive a $10 discount on their MagicBand+ selection or at least a $15 discount on their MagicBand 2 selection.
I ordered a MagicBand+ through a resort stay when they first became available. My MagicBand+ ended up being free because they were not going to be able to fill our order in time for the associated trip. So, this review is based on using the MagicBand+ on two trips to Disney World and one trip to Disneyland with no expenditure on my part.
Linking, Activating and Pairing MagicBand+
It wouldn’t be Disney if the language didn’t get a bit convoluted. In order to get full functionality from the band, it just needs to be Activated, Paired, and Linked in your My Disney Experience App.
Let me briefly distinguish these terms for you. Link is what we are used to doing with the MagicBand predecessors. This is when we assign a specific MagicBand to a specific person. Activate and Deactivate should also be familiar for MagicBand 2 users, as it is recommended that you deactivate any bands that you aren’t currently using (so go do that). Then, simply click “reactivate” when you want to wear the band again. Finally, in order to get full functionality from the band, you’ll need to Pair the band with your phone’s Bluetooth.
Note: You must deactivate your band on the Walt Disney World app in order to set it up in the Disneyland app and vice versa. You can also report bands as “Lost” and then “Found.” Do not mark your band as lost if it is not indeed lost, as that will make it refuse to link on the Disneyland app.
Charging the MagicBand+
While the MagicBand+ will function the same as a MagicBand 2 without a charge, if you want the additional features you will need to keep the battery full. Each band comes with a USB charging cord. The charging cord is unique to MagicBand+, which is a negative for me. We already have a mix of Apple and Android products, an Apple watch, some micro-usb chargers, and now MagicBand+ chargers to mess with. This is not an issue that is unique to the MagicBand+, and I realize this one additional charger isn’t the reason my Owner’s Locker is packed with cords. However, I really don’t want to have to keep track of more chargers and I felt the band didn’t seem to hold its charge for long.
Using MagicBand+ at WDW
One feature that has been talked up with the MagicBand+ was interactivity with the 50th Anniversary statues. Personally, when passing by statues, I often couldn’t hear anything, but I did feel the vibrations. This made me think my phone was buzzing and someone needed me so it interrupted me from being “in the moment,” more than anything else.
Once I double checked that my Bluetooth was paired, the statue feature worked better. I still feel like if I didn’t know the bands interact with the statues, I may have thought the voices and music were happening at random, and not necessarily because I walked past.
For example, on the Haunted Mansion, the MagicBand+ pulses red and buzzes like a heartbeat. But the heartbeat feature is intermittent and spotty. In fact, looking back at my Disneyland trip when this happened on the Haunted Mansion, I thought my band was running out of batteries (I mean, pulsing red light?) and I put it back in my purse. Weeks later, while chatting with another guest at Disney’s Hollywood Studios back on the East Coast, she mentioned it was cute that it did the heartbeat thing on the Haunted Mansion. So, the second time I rode the Haunted Mansion while wearing it, I knew what was happening, but it was still distracting.
I found it difficult to tell whether I had scanned into the park. With the MagicBand+ I have, or possibly the color settings I’m using, the magic band reader at the front of the park lights up white when I’m OK to come in. I’m used to the light going solid green (or purple for DVC) and the little machine saying “Welcome home!” or something similar. If the previous greetings when scanning in have been replaced with something else, I haven’t been able to make it out in any of my times using the band, and the solid white light doesn’t yet indicate to my brain, “go!”
There’s also a Bounty Hunter game you can play in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge with your MagicBand+. See the video below.
Using MagicBand+ at Disneyland
The MagicBand+ is the first iteration of the MagicBand that works for admission and Lightning Lane at the Disneyland Resort. As of yet, it doesn’t work for a whole lot else at the Disneyland Resort.
For example, my family and I were staying at Disney’s Paradise Pier and the MagicBand+ did not have any functionality inside the resort. This struck me as odd because our door at Paradise Pier could be unlocked with our Disneyland app, but not with our MagicBand+. We couldn’t pay for anything with our bands. The MagicBand+ did not grab pictures from rides at Disneyland.
At Walt Disney World, a MagicBand acts as a key to your profile on your My Disney Experience account. Once a band is assigned to a specific person, it “unlocks” all of your info stored inside My Disney Experience: your room, ticket, photos, and more. At the Disneyland Resort, the band is tied to a specific admission ticket rather than directly to a person.
Let’s say you have a regular ticket to Disneyland (or a Magic Key), and you’re going to a ticketed party, like the Oogie Boogie Bash. If you want to use your MagicBand+ that night, you’ll have to go in and unlink the Magic Key from your band and add the Oogie Boogie Bash ticket. The next day, when you go to use your regular ticket, you’ll have to switch it back.
Using the same MagicBand+ on both coasts
It was similarly messy deactivating and reactivating the band on Disneyland versus My Disney Experience (Walt Disney World) apps. I was three-quarters of the way through my visit to Disneyland before I could get it to work. So, I didn’t get to test it out in California as much as I would have liked to.
I had deactivated my band on My Disney Experience but guest relations and I still couldn’t make it link. I finally figured it out that while frantically trying things; one thing I tried was that I had marked the band “Lost” in the My Disney Exerience app in an effort to get the app to “forget” it and I was then trying to link a “Lost” band to the Disneyland app.
User error aside, it just seems a bit silly that I have the same login information, same profile, etc., and I have to make the Walt Disney World app forget the band and then add it in separately to the Disneyland app. All that to say, the ability to use the MagicBand+ at Disneyland is hardly anything to get too excited about at this point.
After testing out some of the MagicBand+ capabilities at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort, I personally am not rushing to “collect them all” as they used to urge on Disney’s Magical Express service (RIP). I feel like we are collectively “beta testing” this product to see what features work and don’t work, and what people enjoy. I’m absolutely fine with doing that, I just would not pay $45 each for the pleasure of doing so.
Overall, the fact that I found the process of linking, charging, and connecting the MagicBand+ clunky and frustrating makes me hesitant to recommend everyone go out and get a MagicBand+. If you already have a favorite MagicBand, and you aren’t dead set on using a band on the West Coast at Disneyland, go ahead and hold off.
On the other hand, if you’re buying a new band either way, I can see where the additional functions (limited and clunky though they may be) are probably worth an extra $10 each. Given how close they are in price, I won’t tell you to spend your money on technology that is already outdated. If you’re definitely buying a new band for one reason or another, go for the MagicBand+.