Disney has spent over $1 billion developing and launching the Magic Band system and giving them for free. But are they planning to scrap that?
Disney has moved forward at full throttle with their new Magic Band technology. For the most part, I think people can agree that it has been a great addition to Disney World. A single wearable that allows payments, park entry with tickets, fastpass, dining plan, opening your resort hotel door and more. Disney has spent over $1billion developing and implementing the Magic Band technology across Disney World. That's a hefty price.
Magic Bands are fun, and I enjoy wearing them, but I know some people do not. Disney released the Magic Band 2 in 2016 which allowed you to pop out the middle part and attach it to other things like keyrings.
Recently, Disney announced a "digital key" which allows you to open your resort hotel door with the My Disney Experience app on your phone. In hindsight, I imagine this was Disney's goal when the Magic Band idea started developing in 2013. To have a device you have on you to access your rooms, your tickets, your Fastpass etc. Back then though, they couldn't rely on smartphone technology to do everything they want, as the iPhone didn't even get the NFC chip until the iPhone 6 at the end 2014. So they had to develop something themselves and give to guests - the Magic Band.
Now that smartphones have caught up, and the vast majority have up-to-date bluetooth and NFC. Disney can use it's app to turn your phone into a Magic Band replicate. (I hope further down the road they allow you to do this with Apple Watches and Smart Watches too.)
On February 2017, Disney announced that over 29 million MagicBands had been made. How many of these are the "free" ones given to guests versus paid ones is not clear, but I imagine–especially knowing Disney–they want to reduce this cost.
I'm predicting that in the next few years Disney is going to stop giving you a free Magic Band when you stay at a Disney resort or renew your Annual Pass. They will market the My Disney Experience app on your own phone as they way to access all things Disney World. They'll still be available to buy, though!
Thinking about it, I'm not really against the idea. As great as the Magic Bands are, if I can just tap my Apple Watch or my phone and get the same functionality–then great!
A common complaint about the Digital Key system (which, keep in mind, is still new), is that it is still much quicker to tap the Magic Band on your wrist to your hotel door rather than loading up the app on your phone. While this is true, if you've ever used the Starbucks app, when you're near a Starbucks, the app pops up on your home screen, you tap it to open and can pay right away with your account barcode. If Disney can use the GPS on your phone to see when you're near your room, it could do the same. One tap, hold it to you door, and open.
I'd probably still get and wear a Magic Band, though.