Review: Lines from TouringPlans.com

A while back, I wrote about the Disney Parks / Verizon Mobile Magic app which was released in November of 2009. This application gives you wait times and FastPass information for Disney Parks attractions plus all the show times, times for character meet & greets, games to play while waiting in queues and more. But you had to have a non-smart phone (aka not a Blackberry, iPhone or Droid) and you had to be on Verizon. In addition, a 180 day license costs $9.99.

Well, the folks at the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and TouringPlans.com have come up with their own version on this idea called simply “Lines.” Free during the beta testing period, Lines will be included with a Premium Access subscription to Touring Plans. Unlike the Mobile Magic, Lines is actually a mobile web site which means it works with smart phones. So far, Lines works on the iPhone, Blackberry, Android and Palm Pre. I tested Lines on a Motorola Droid, HTC Eris, Blackberry Curve and an iPod Touch using WiFi access. I also checked it out on Safari (it doesn’t work on other non-mobile web browsers). All but one of the screenshots below came from a Droid and are from December 5, 2009.

 

          

As you can see above, the log in screen reminds you that Lines is still in beta and also gives you links to sign up if you need to plus help if you have trouble logging in. Once you’re logged in, you see the four parks with their hours and EMH (if applicable) listed. At the bottom, there’s the Touring Plans crowd estimate along with best park to visit and park to avoid recommendations. Like the wait times, this information is based on the Unofficial Guide’s and TouringPlans.com’s years of data collection related to Disney park crowds. The design isn’t as graphics intensive as Mobile Magic, but that means it loads quickly and has a nice, clean design.

After selecting a park (in this case, the Magic Kingdom), you get a list of all of the attractions in that park. On this page, the wait times are listed along with the FastPass return time if that attraction has FP. You also choose to view the attractions in different arrangements (see below). Your navigation buttons are at the top: Parks returns you (naturally) to the listing of the four major theme parks and + Time lets you add a wait time to one of the attractions. If you submit a time via this link, you then get a drop down menu to select the attraction you want to update.

Notice the warning that wait time estimates may be off during the beta process, but they will only get more accurate as more people use Lines and update wait times (see below). Also notice that text is black while wait times are blue and alerts are red. A simple design choice, but it makes the information more easy to comprehend at a glance.

A simple feature that I appreciated is the date and time stamp at the top of the screen. It made me feel more secure in the accuracy of the information being provided. Of course, having done some date/time stamp coding myself, I fully realize that the date and time are not necessarily related to the database calls for the wait times, but it still made me feel better.

 

          

When you select a particular attraction, you (naturally) get more detailed information about that attraction. The comparison between the posted wait time and the actual wait time is good information to have. Whether there is a single rider line is also indicated here. Below the estimates are the forecasts of the standby waits at different times throughout the day, the peak standby time and when the FastPasses will be gone by. As the program states, “the standby forecasts are actual waits,” but “all estimates/forecasts are unofficial.”

          

Part of the strength of the Lines program is that users can improve the data by inputting actual wait times while they are at the parks. The screen above on the left gives users some notes and tips about submitting wait times. The screen on the right is the actual screen for submitting wait times and/or FastPass information. I think the on-screen hints on what should be submitted when has got to be a big help getting more accurate data submitted.

                    

So let’s say you want to view the attractions in a different way rather than alphabetically for the whole park. Scroll down and you can change the viewing mode from Alpha to Time (longest to shortest wait) or to Land. In the example above, we chose the Land viewing option and then selected Frontierland.

There were a couple of issues with Lines that I ran into while testing it. First of all, I could never get it to render correctly on my Verizon Blackberry Curve 8330. Instead of looking sleek and stylish like it did on the Lines Blackberry page, it was clunky text like you see on the right. I doublechecked that I had the latest OS from my Blackberry, but never got anything but this.

Second, I didn’t like that show times are handled by linking users to Steve Soares’ Walt Disney World Live Entertainment web site. His site is great, but it’s not really optimized for mobile browsers. This was especially true on the iPod Touch where the navigation buttons at the top were cut off. This made them hard to read at times. Also, the link is for the main page of Steve’s site no matter which park you are “in” when you hit the link. If I click the link for Fantasmic, I would at least like to be taken to the section of WDW Live Entertainment for Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Finally, when I’m viewing the attractions in the Time viewing mode, I would like the option of listing them from shortest to longest wait time as well as the default longest to shortest option. Maybe a simple button that lets you toggle back and forth between these two options?

[UPDATE: Since I posted this review, several of these issues have been resolved.  Turns out that on most Blackberry smart phone (including my Curve), the default for the web browser that comes with the phone is for it to not support style sheets.  To fix this, open the browser.  Then, bring up the options screen, go to Options > Browser Configuration , then select Support Style Sheets. Finally, Save Options. 

On the other two issues, Henry from Touring Plans already changed the links so you go to the correct part of WDW Live Entertainment for the park you are interested in and the toggle between longest to shortest and shortest to longest is coming!]

 

All in all, Lines is a really nice program and the price is definitely better than the Disney Parks / Verizon Mobile Magic app. I’m hoping the problems I experienced on my Blackberry Curve will be fixed before our January 31st trip or else my husband is going to be the chief Lines checker on his Droid! Lines is a solid program for both the first time Walt Disney World visitor and the veteran annual passholder on their monthly trip. Enjoy!