To explain the purpose of this blog succinctly: I am a geek, I am a girl, and I review things. Mostly things from ThinkGeek. Why? Well, ThinkGeek has many awesome things, but they do not have customer comments/reviews on-site, and frankly, it's hard to know sometimes exactly how awesome something is, or what problems you might encounter with an item.
Our first item up for review is the undeniably adorable "Flip Flop Solar Plant." This item is notable for a few things:
* It is cheap.
* It requires no batteries or water, only light.
* It is part of the GeekPoints reward system, so you can get it for free.
* You can mod it!
* It sometimes arrives DOA or may cease to work after falling off your desk, but is easy to fix. (I'll tell you how.)
If you have good eyes, one of the first things you will notice about the Flip Flop Solar Plant is that, while "Flip Flop" is an amusing and cute name, the product in question is actually named "Flip FLAP Solar Plant." It's a Japanese product, as its packaging suggests, but fear not: the packaging features both Japanese and English instructions, and using your solar plant is as easy as:
1. Remove plant from package. (Admittedly, this step requires a screwdriver.)
2. Place under light source.
3. Enjoy its soothing motion.
You will need a Phillips-head screwdriver (that's the + tip one) to remove your plant from the packaging, as it is secured to the package base with a small screw. Attempting to simply wrench the plant free is not advised as you may damage your plant in the attempt. The screw can then be discarded; it serves no practical purpose. Flip Flap Solar Plant comes with a small piece of double-sided foam tape. This is so you can mount your plant somewhere, like the dashboard of your car. Please note that you cannot mount Flip Flap sideways or upside-down. As cool as that would be, Flip Flap's internal mechanism needs normal up-and-down gravitational force to operate.
The package helpfully provides instructions like "Please do not give water" and "It Works by the energy of light" if you're still confused. The package also tells you to "Please grow your Flip Flap in your mind and bloom your own special flower." Translation: this product does not actually bloom or grow flowers in reality. (But see further down for more options.)
Flip Flap Packaging
Flip Flap: I Love You
To be honest, I didn't have high expectations for the plant. I just tacked it on to a ThinkGeek order because I had some GeekPoints and I thought, what the hell, free toy. Little did I suspect this tiny solar flower would take root in my heart. It's so ridiculously charming! I know, you're going: "All it does is move up and down!" But it does so with such a calming, soothing motion! It's design is totally adorable!
The motion of the plastic leaves is generally silent. If you put it under a strong light source, you can get the leaves to move strongly enough that they periodically "click" together. This clearly indicates your Flip Flap is very happy. It's not a very loud or distracting noise, but if the occasional click does bother you, consider moving your Flip Flap further away from light. (Geek Girl: specializing in high-tech solutions to everyday problems since 1984.)
Flip Flap Is Broken
My Flip Flap worked just fine out of the box, but I have noticed on various sites with customer product reviews that some people find Flip Flap DOA -- Dead On Arrival. Additionally, three days after I received Flip Flap, the plant fell off my desk and suddenly stopped working.
Now, most people will take this as occasion to contact the company they ordered Flip Flap from and complain or try to get a replacement. This is not the Geek way. If I were to immediately call customer service, I would lose my Geek cred. Plus, most companies will charge you to ship the item back; it's not worth paying $5 to replace a $5 product.
I decided to see if I couldn't fix Flip Flap myself, and in the process I uncovered the likely reason some Flip Flaps don't arrive in working condition.
Tools required: a small Phillips-head (+ tip) screwdriver
The outer shell of Flip Flap is secured by four small Phillips-head screws. Unscrew them and the shell will slide apart in two pieces. This reveals Flip Flap's inner workings. BE GENTLE. Flip Flap is made of parts that can break if you are careless or rough.
Everything inside Flip Flap can be gently pried apart with your fingernails quite easily. You will also find that everything inside Flip Flap can only fit together one way. This means that even if you don't pay attention to what you're doing when you take the thing apart, you will probably be able to piece it back together anyway, as the pieces only fit properly where they're supposed to go.
Flip Flap uses a combination of solar power, gravity, and magnetics to operate. If your Flip Flap is not working, there's a good chance it's because the magnet has been dislodged. Maybe Flip Flap fell off your desk, maybe the package got jostled around during shipping. Maybe you used Flip Flap as a projectile weapon (not advised). Regardless, there is a small grey circular magnet that fits into the bottom of one of the plant leaves. You may find it out of place somewhere within Flip Flap's insides. Slide it back into place and Flip Flap should start working again.
Other potential problems could be plant leaves dislodged from where they should be sitting, or possibly the wires running from the solar cell to the board might be severed. Make sure the leaves are in place and that all wires are intact. I suppose you could also crack the solar cell if you're being rough with Flip Flap, in which case it's probably time to buy a new one.
You will know that your Flip Flap is working if, when all the pieces are put into place and you shine a light on it, it moves. If everything is in the correct place and it's not moving... well, it's not like it costs a lot to replace, anyway. Hell, if you screw the thing back together, you can probably get a replacement without anyone being the wiser, though for the cost of sending it back, you could probably just buy a new one.
If video is not working, try setting quality to 480p.
Customization & Modding
Flip Flap actually has some interesting modding potential. The easiest thing is to adorn it with some stickers or paint it. (Mine I just fingerpainted with some acrylics.) In the process of repairing my flip flap, though, I realized that the inner mechanism could be put in any number of alternative casings. With a bit of modding know-how, there's all sorts of potential. If you happen to mod your Flip Flap in some notable or cool way, let me know. I'm going to get another Flip Flap and see what I can come up with myself.
Flip Flap Variation
If you ordered your Flip Flap from ThinkGeek, you will have the blue Flip Flap with waving green leaves. This is the only Flip "Flop" Solar Plant that TG carries as of this posting, but there are a number of other Flip Flap variations. For starters, Flip Flap comes in other colors, like red. Then there are some alternate Flip Flap cases, like the ladybug one, and little multicolor flowerpots. Then, there are Flip Flaps that don't require you to "imagine" a flower: they come with plastic flowers on them. A simple search on eBay for "solar plant" will bring up all sorts of different Flip Flaps. Honestly, ThinkGeek choose potentially the most boring Flip Flap variant, but it's also likely the most broadly-appealing.
So, there you have it: Flip Flap Solar Plant inside and out. For $5, it's a great addition to any office cubicle or desk.