Review: Disney Parks / Verizon Mobile Magic App

[NOTE: This app was discontinued in December of 2013 with the roll out of the My Disney Experience app.]

If you’ve ever been to Walt Disney World, you know what one of the more important places to check when arriving at a Disney park is the tip board to see the wait times for your favorite attractions:

Now, imagine being able to have that information plus all the show times, times for character meet & greets, games to play while waiting in queues and more in the palm of your hand.

The new Disney Parks / Verizon Mobile Magic app promises all of that plus the convenience of having it on your cell phone. According to the press release sent out on November 11th, the Mobile Magic application “transforms Verizon Wireless phones into electronic tour guides to navigate Disney Parks.” With the use of Verizon’s Location Based Services (LBS), the Mobile Magic app recognizes which park you are in and directs you to attractions, dining locations and shops that are near your location.

The Mobile Magic app is not the first time Disney Parks and Verizon have teamed up on a project. The very popular Disney’s Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure makes use of “Kimmunicators” to send Epcot guests on an “ultra interactive quest” in one of the seven countries at the World Showcase.

          

After signing up at a Kim Possible kiosk (above on the left), you get a Fast Pass that tells you what time to report to the Kim Possible kiosk in the country you are assigned. You are given a Kimmunicator (really a Verizon cell phone that been modified – above right) and sent off on your adventure.

Both the Kim Possible Adventure app and the Mobile Magic app are BREW apps. BREW stands for Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless and is a development platform created by Qualcomm (Wikipedia). Most phones that run BREW apps are not smart phones. This is part of the reason why this first version of Mobile Magic will only run on certain non-smart phones.1 According to the Disney Parks Blog post that announced the release of this app, the “list of Verizon Wireless phones that Mobile Magic will be available on is expected to grow to include ‘touch’ handsets and smartphones in the upcoming weeks.”

In early November, Tom and I attended a Gadget Happy Hour that Verizon hosted in Cincinnati to showcase some of their new offerings like the Droid, the Android Eris and the Blackberry Storm 2. I had been following the announcements about Mobile Magic closely since we are Verizon customers and had a Walt Disney World trip planned for November 8-14. I asked about the MM app and Laura from Verizon said she would look into it. On November 11th (the day it was officially released), I was notified that I would be getting a phone with the app installed to try out in the parks. Since I currently have a Blackberry Curve and Tom just got a Motorola Droid, they had to send me a compatitible phone to try out the Mobile Magic app.

The phone didn’t arrived until after lunch our last full day at WDW so I didn’t get much time to play with the app in the parks. My first challenge was dealing with an unfamiliar non-smart phone. I’ve been using a Blackberry or my iPod Touch for so long, it took a while to make friends with the LG Glance and get the settings how I wanted them. I also needed to turn on the Location Based Services for Mobile Magic to really work in the parks. You can try out the app for free for one day or purchase a 180 day license for $9.99.

After the app is installed, it takes several clicks to start Mobile Magic: MENU > Media Center > Browse & Download > DisneyParks Mobile Magic. And that doesn’t include the three clicks it takes to unlock the phone if it is locked. I was expecting a separate area for applications, but never found one. After launching the app, you see the splash screen and then the location screen. You also have the option of setting the location manually when you are in the parks. This option isn’t available outside the parks.2

          

If you are not on Disney property, you are given a menu of possible locations headed by the question, “Where would you like to explore?” This lists includes all four theme parks, both water parks, Downtown Disney, Wide World of Sports, Dining Guide and Disney Resorts. After selecting one of the theme parks, your options are Today’s Events, Attractions, Characters, Search, Transportation, Games, My Favorites, Shopping, Guest Services and Dining. Choosing the Attractions area gives you a list of all of the attractions in that park plus it zooms in on the selected attraction on the guide map shown at the top of the screen. Scroll down to choose another attraction and the map moves to show that attraction’s location in the park. Also, when you select an attraction, it will show you the exact wait time and the FastPass return time if you are in that park. If you are not in that park, the wait time is more vague (“See now”, “Moderate” and so on) and the FastPass info is just whether they are available, limited or not at all.

If you click on one of the attractions, you get more information. The image to the right is an example of this. (You can click on this image to see a larger version of this image.) You can see a photo of the attraction at the top plus the wait time and FastPass return time is listed again. Below this, the description which gives you the minimum height requirement for this attraction (if there is one), any safety notices and then a description of the attraction. You can also scroll to see about any accessibility issues, get help finding the attraction and/or mark it as a favorite.

 

The Today’s Events section shows you the weather for Walt Disney World and park hours for the four main theme parks. The weather section shows the current temp as well as the forecast for that day. You can scroll to the right to see the forecast for next four days too. You also need scroll left or right to see all of the park in the park hours section. Below the basic opening and closing times, the shows for that park are listed with their next show time shown. Below that is a list of special events around the parks like Festival of the Masters or the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.

The Characters section is one that really impressed me. After choosing this section, you can search for character by name or look in categories like “Mickey and Friends” or “Princesses and Princes.” Let’s say your little princess is crazy for Princess Jasmine and wants to see her in Epcot. After scrolling through to find Jasmine, MobileMagic tells you that she is next scheduled to be in Morocco at 4:45 to 5:30 pm (see image on the right – it’s another one you can click to see a bigger version of it). The part that really impressed was the ability to set a reminder for this event. What a great idea! This option was available for many of the scheduled shows and events at the parks. Now, if Jasmine isn’t scheduled to appear that day or if you are not actually in the parks, Mobile Magic will show you the following message: “Hello there, Princess Jasmine has returned to the palace at the request of the Sultan. She should be returning shortly, after all, Agrabah isn’t far away (by magic carpet, of course).” Cute, huh?

 

The Games section just has two games so far. One is a simple 6-question quiz that tells you what Disney character you are. There’s also a trivia game that you can play against other teams when you are in the parks or on your own when you’re not. There are five levels that get progressively harder and, to be honest, progressively trivial (i.e. “How long is the track length for the Tomorrowland Speedway?”) They would be great for playing while waiting in a queue, but hopefully more questions and games will be added.

Dining helps you find places to eat close to you and tells you about the restaurant. Mobile Magic gives you pricing information, but not menus. The Dining Reservations area here just gives the 407-WDW-DINE number to call, though you can just click the number to call it.

The other sections are very simple so far. The Shopping section lists mainly the hours and, sometimes, a brief description of the store. Guest Services helps you find restrooms, ATM, Guest Relations, First Aid, Smoking Locations and so on. Transportation helps you get from one location to another and, if you’re leaving your car at one of the large Disney parking lots, you can set Mobile Magic to remember your parking location. Very handy!

Now, everything wasn’t perfect and there are definitely some things that need to be polished. The error message on the right is what I kept getting when I was trying to do a restaurant search while I was in the World Showcase. No matter how I changed the search parameters, I got the same error message. Now, I’ve tried this feature since I got home and it seems to be working outside the parks.

Speaking of Dining, I ran into something odd. We were staying at the Boardwalk Inn and I tried checking out the dining options there. Mobile Magic only brought up three options: Private Dining (Disneyspeak for room service), The Belle Vue Lounge (a bar) and Leaping Horse Libations (the pool bar). No matter what I did, I couldn’t get Mobile Magic to bring up the wonderful restaurants that are on the actual Boardwalk. This seemed very… well, odd to me.

Since the Today’s Events section only gives you the hours for the four main parks, some important information was missing. While we were at WDW last week, Typhoon Lagoon was closed for refurbishment. Yet, when I went to the Typhoon Lagoon section, this was never mentioned. Oops.

I couldn’t help but wonder if a first time guest would be overwhelmed by all the information, but this is definitely a great resource for an annual pass holder or anyone who goes to Walt Disney World frequently. I would definitely recommend purchasing Mobile Magic a month or so before your trip so you can familiarize yourself with how the app works so it’s easier to use on your vacation. Hopefully, Mobile Magic will be available for smart phones by the time we go back to Walt Disney World in January. If it is, I know we’ll be buying a copy.

NOTES:

1 Current list of Verizon phones that Mobile Magic will work on:
– – LG Glance (the phone I was sent)
– LG VX Chocolate
– LG Chocolate 3
– LG Decoy
– LG VX 8700
– LG Venus
– Moto Adventure
– Nokia 7205
– Samsung Renown
– Moto 325
– Samsung 540
– Samsung 550
– LG 5500
– Nokia 6205
– Moto 755
– UT Starcom 8950
– UT Starcom GC1-c711
– GZ1 – S Boulder
– Moto K1 -M
– Moto – L7c
– LG 8350
– Samsung Trance
– Moto V3m
– Moto Barrage
– Moto VU204
– LGE VX-8360
– Motorola RIZR Z6TV
– Motorola VU30 (Rapture)
– Motorola Z6c
– Samsung SCH-A990
– Samsung SCH-U620
– Samsung SCH-U900 Flipshot

Update: New Phones Added (12/21)

– LG VX 9100 – enV2
– LG VX 9200 – enV3
– LG VX 8300
– LG VX8370
– Motorola V9M
– Motorola W766 Harmony
– Motorola VE
– Samsung U640 Buddy
– Samsung SCH – U650 (Sway)
– Casio Hitachi Exilim C721

 

2 I did discover that, if you don’t log out of the Mobile Magic app, you can continue to see the exact wait times and FastPass return times for whatever park you were last in. Two days later and many states away from Walt Disney World, I was still able to see the information for the attractions in Epcot. Not terribly practical if this is also your cell phone, but it was kind of fun to play with on the long drive home.