Apple Pay is coming to the Walt Disney World Resort – What does it mean for the average Disney guest?
I want to Pay with my Watch.
At its iPhone event last week, Apple announced Apple Pay, a mobile wallet system that will allow users to pay for purchases with the simple tap of either their new iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, or eventually their Apple Watch, which was also announced. Apple Pay will work with NFC technology, or Near Field Communication, in the new devices to transfer the secure data (no identity, credit card, or banking information is passed) to a reader at checkout. In addition to announcing partnerships with big retailers like McDonald’s, Macy’s, and Walgreens to name a few, Apple announced that the new Apple Pay technology would be accepted at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.
Since Walt Disney World is no stranger to wearable technology and the “touch-to-pay” concept, there has been a lot of speculation on how the new Apple Pay will work at the parks and resorts. Will the existing MagicBand technology interact with your iPhone or Apple Watch? Will guests be able to access their My Disney Experience information and FastPass+ reservations through their new Apple Watch? Will guests be able to open up their resort room with their iPhone 6? It all boils down to this:
What does it all mean for the average guest?
In short, not a whole heck of a lot. At least for the near future anyway. Later this year – December to be exact – iPhone 6 users will have the option to use Apple Pay at Walt Disney World to pay for their purchases across the resort. Shoppers at Disney Stores across the country will be able to use Apple Pay a bit earlier, beginning in October of this year. At its heart, Apple Pay is just a simpler way to for iPhone 6 and 6 Plus users to pay for the transactions that take place on a daily basis – or on vacation at Walt Disney World.
Apple Pay will be a very handy feature for guests who aren’t staying at a Disney resort and are unable to charge to their room via their MagicBand. I would imagine that even some guests staying on property will still opt to use the new Apple Pay system – it will allow users an instant transaction, give them the ability to choose from multiple cards, and I think a lot of users will find the process a lot simpler than the MagicBand and PIN combination that’s in place with MyMagic+.
Eventually when the Apple Watch is released next year, Walt Disney World guests will be able to use the device to tap at checkout instead of their iPhone, much like the way Disney MagicBands work. This will also open up the Apple Pay system to iPhone 5, 5c, and 5s users, since the Apple Watch is said to operate with those iPhone models as well.
While the Apple Pay mobile wallet system is a new addition to the Apple smartphone line, the technology has been available on Android NFC-capable phones for quite some time, using Google Wallet. There’s been no confirmation whether the NFC readers at the Walt Disney World points of sale will support non-Apple Pay systems, but I’d be willing to bet that with Disney and Apple’s business relationship, it will be an exclusive deal.
Looking towards the future
Now that we have the basic facts about what’s happening with Apple Pay at Walt Disney World over the next few months, it’s exciting to think about what possibilities could be added in the future. There’s not a doubt in my mind that Disney didn’t plan ahead and at least allow for the addition of NFC readers into its resort doors or FastPass+/turnstile hardware, if not have the capabilities installed already.
Though not directly-related to the recent iPhone 6/Apple Watch announcement, Starwood Hotels publicized in January that they would begin a trial test that would allow iPhone users to open their hotel rooms using their phone’s bluetooth technology. Now that the iPhone and Apple Watch will have NFC technology, I think it’s only a matter of time before Disney starts playing with the idea of guests being able to use these devices to open hotel rooms in the same manner as MagicBands.
In the same vein, I think it would be so convenient to use your iPhone or Apple Watch to activate a FastPass+ reservation at the front of an attraction or even to get you into the park at the turnstiles. There’s something about the idea of using the same device – an iPhone with the My Disney Experience app installed – to keep track of your reservations, edit them if you need to on the fly, then ultimately using it to get on to the attraction, that feels so futuristic and convenient. Add the option to use it to get into your hotel room and the upcoming capability of paying for transactions into the mix and it just sounds like a perfect, streamlined experience.
What do you think? Will you be upgrading to the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus? If so, will you be testing this out at Walt Disney World – even if you have a MagicBand? Do you think this is too much technology? Let us know!
As the iPhone 6 comes out and eventually the Apple Watch, we’ll be keeping an eye out for how Apple Pay is working in the parks and keep you updated!