I just came back from a week at Walt Disney World taking a pocket full of iPhone apps for my twenty-something visit. I’ve tested apps in the parks before but not for a few years, so I was excited to see how the app market has grown and progressed. It’s a challenge navigating your way around day planning, meal reservations, and enjoying your self, without racing around with no purpose through the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, not to mention the dozens of resorts.
Cinderella’s Castle During the MAGIC sound and light show
I learned that one app isn’t enough for first time park hoppers and that there is so much duplication in the apps that you’ll wind up buying the same information over and over just to get one or two unique features. The quality ranges from the ridiculous to the sublime, but most fall in the middle providing useful and trustworthy information that is worth its weight in gold if you need to know something and need to know it right then and there to keep a reservation or know that trying to get a Fast Pass for Soarin’ is futile since they’ve sold out for the day and closed the Fast Pass machines. If that sentence confuses you, you are newbie and some decent apps will really save your bacon. This is the first part of a series of short reviews that go from least useful to most useful.
Social Networking Eats its Young
When I got to the parks I tried this one and was utterly confused since it displayed a dispiriting melange of two random restaurants in every entry and a navigation system that seemed random. While I was at the park, an update was released that made things much clearer but although I could now find things, the information was hardly useful.
This app allows you to choose a park and then a restaurant. From there you really never know what you’re going to get. Many restaurants have user supplied reviews using a five point star system. Some of the reviews are as old as 2006 but most are more recent since the revision deleted a number of very old reviews. The problem with user supplied reviews is that I didn’t find them to help. One review can be glowing while the next can be damning. Some good reviews didn’t use the star system at all and this wasn’t caught by a proofreader. Flame Tree BBQ at Animal Kingdom was one of those.
The Dining with Disney Guide
When you tap on many of the non user supplied reviews, you are shown ”We’ll be reviewing this restaurant soon. Please tell us about your experiences!”. This is not helpful.
Often there are buttons for menus, pictures or videos. In the case of Casey’s Corner in Magic Kingdom, the picture was the sign and not the food, however most of the pictures do show the food and often a good variety. Many of the menus are way out of date. We ate at Cinderella’s Castle and the menu shown in the app has no relation to menu we were given. Of the few that did seem correct, the prices were from years ago. For example the all-you-care-to-eat dinner at Liberty Tavern in Magic Kingdom was shown to cost US$20.99, but when we were there it was over $30.
The videos are probably the worst part of the app. A cutesy couple that think they’re funny provide video reviews that I couldn’t get to play on 3G since the parks have no Wi-Fi. When I checked them later, the background noise was quite loud, and the quality of the video left a lot to be desired.
The purpose of a WDW app is to provide dependable and up-to-date information. The Dining with Disney app fails on all accounts.
Pros: An update made things a bit clearer; it lists all dining venues.
Cons: Since the app is based on usually contradictory information and often old user reviews, it’s hard to find a good restaurant. Many restaurants weren’t reviewed by the developers, amateurish too cute videos need more bandwidth than is available at least on Sprint 3G in the parks, menu prices are old and out of date.
Other Reviews in This Series