Saturday, March 20, 2010

TG: Flip Flop (or Flip Flap) Solar Plant

Welcome to the inaugural post of Geek Girl Review!

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.)

In Hand

Initial Impressions
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.)

flippack.jpg image by cpatch1 flippack1.jpg image by cpatch1
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
Difficulty: Easy

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.

flipasm1.jpg image by cpatch1
flipinside1.jpg image by cpatch1

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.
flower.jpg image by cpatch1 fliplady.png image by cpatch1 tomy-flipflap-solar-plant2.jpg image by cpatch1

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.


  1. Well I say, this post helped me feel like a minor genius. XD My Flip Flop was not working. Went inside it like you said, the solar workings weren't in the right place so I moved them over and now it works. :3
    Buuut... now it flips and flops, but it does so incredibly slowly compared to the video you show. Is that indication of some more wrongness? Should I get a new one or is this just how things are?
    Thanks for these super helpful tips!

  2. Thanks for the repair info. With your instructions, I reseated the magnet AND the circuit board and Flip Flap lives!

  3. Thank you! Helped solve geek birthday crisis!

  4. Since the day I saw the Flip Flap on ThinkGeek's website, I knew I wanted one. Finally, I gave in and cashed in some geek points with my most recent order. I was deeply saddened when I unscrewed it from its package and found it non-responsive to any light source. I wondered if it needed that screw for some reason, and if I had messed it up trying to remove it from the packaging. So, I did a search for "is my flip flap broken" and stumbled upon your post. Sure enough, the bottom magnet was actually jammed between the leaves at the top of the device, and the circuit board was knocked out of place as well! Thank you SO MUCH for saving my Flip Flap :D

  5. Thanks for the info! I ordered mine with my Think Geek points and it was DOA. Reseating the magnet fixed it.

  6. Like the others said, this review saved my Flip Flap. I received mine for my birthday as part of a package od several things from Think Geek. The main box itself wasn't treated so nicely, so it was no wonder FF was DOA. Took it apart to see that all the innards were scattered around inside. Once everything was in place it started working immediately. Thanks for the help! =D

  7. I opened up one of the variations (with a flower) and the magnet is hot glued to the side. This is the only place I can find on the internet with Flip Flap repair info, but I think the mechanics are different. I'm not brave enough to mess with it.

  8. i opened my flip flap up only to see that the bottom metal piece was completely missing. does anyone know the type of metal it is? maybe to replace it?

  9. @Kareki: The video is a little bit fast, actually. First time using the camera and I didn't have all the settings quite right. Unfortunately, I'm too lazy to fix that.

    @Anonymous: If/when I obtain a flower flip flap, I'll open it up and see if I can't offer some help.

    @anthony: The silver magnet or the bright red coil?

  10. thank you so much for this. i would've been lost without your help.

    now my Flip Flap works great! ^_^

  11. I originally bought the flower type for $10 and it didn't come with a tab for the dashboard and promptly broke it when it fell off. I then bought a pack of four, one arrived DOA. Thanks to your instructions I easily fixed the original flower but I took apart the other one and I think the red coil was "off center"? I tried to move it and broke the connection. I'm trying to super glue it but I don't think it's going to work.

  12. thank you very much for this post. when i ordered three flip flap plants, only one of them worked out of the box. your guide was helpful and I fixed the problem (magnet dislodged).

  13. Can you help a dummy repair the flip flap toy. I do not know what is attached to what in the toy. One of the toy, leaf (2) does not move. Well i was told to attach the wire. attach the wire to what? Can you post a picture of the loose wire and a picture of what it is suppose to go to?

    Also i was told to check the inside censor. I do not know what it look like, where it is and where it is suppose to be.

    Toy1. The flower, and two leafs do not move
    toy2. the flower and one leaf moves, however, one leaf do not move
    3. panda bear sits on a tiolet (i obtained for a special, special friend). It does not move. I hear one rattle at the bottom of the toy

    I am a dummy. so please tell me what is supposed to go to what and where via pictures or describe it

  14. I think ThinkGeek sold me a bootleg FlipFlap. My packaging is in bad, broken english with no brand name or instructions. It looks cheaply made unlike the pictures of the others I've seen online by Tomy. It responds to light, but the "3 Settings" do nothing different.

  15. I got a Flip Flap for Christmas and I also think it was the bootleg one. Mine only does one setting too. I did also get some inanimate character stickers with it and it does liven them up!

  16. Thank you for this post! I had wanted a Flip Flap for a long time and just hadn't gotten one...I finally picked a red one up for about $5, and it would move when I touched it but would wind down on its own--even when under direct sunlight.

    Reading your post gave me hope--perhaps it had just been dropped during shipment! The red outer shell just popped apart, no screws. When I pulled the outer parts off and got down to the skeleton, it worked perfectly--nothing had been out of place or jostled. It danced right away, even under dim light. I dunno what could have been wrong with it!

    However...when I tried to put the shell back on it, it refused to work. What in the world? I'm thinking maybe there is something impeding movement on the inside, but everything looks hunkey-dory. Any thoughts?

  17. Found it: the brown plastic part on the top that had a cut-out for the solar panel was holding it down at a weird angle and keeping light from getting to it. I just took that piece off and reassembled the red shell.

  18. I have a flip flap ... blue with a pink flower. Could be a knock off. Anyway, I can't see the four screws. I'm nervous to try to pry it open - has anyone opened a similar model and could talk me through it?


  19. Dear Geek Girl,
    I also had the flip flop and it fall off the desk and one leaves got the internal plastic clip broken. thus only one leaf is now working.
    I am wondering if I can use its solar panel to some alternate use. Please help.

  20. Thank u for the help I've looked every were thanks

  21. How do I mount it to my dashboard?

  22. No four screws on this one, no idea how to fix it. I do have the magnet which came off, but do not know how to open this one. This one is pink with green leaves and a bumble bee in center instead of a flower. Under neath the plant there is a quater of turn twist of little knob, but it does not twist off. Thanks.

  23. Mine also does not have 4 screws. It has the a knob on the bottom that will not turn. So I do not know how to open to repair.

  24. Thank you so much!!!!!!!!!

  25. Fit a better magnet to get it working. Get a neodymium magnet. Mine now works inside the house on a cloudy day.

  26. Dropped mine in dish water, not once but TWICE!! First time it worked fine, this time, I think I killed it. I sat it, immediately, on the dehumidifier each time, BUT, unfortunately, this time, no success. Patiently waiting to see if it may come alive again. Nita

  27. My wife got a solar dancing flower as a workplace tchotchke. The wire coil was out of the holder and one of its wires had broken. As there was a wire coming off the outer rim of the coil I suspect the wire that went to the center of the coil broke. Maybe if I unwind a bit from the inner part of the coil and reconnect it it will work again.

  28. How long does it take to charge? Should it work right away when I put it on the window sill?

  29. No four screws on the Bee Happy model, just a knob on the bottom and a couple of holes which MAY have screws holding the thing together but are impossible to use a tiny screwdriver on.

  30. Thank you! I bought a still flower and now it is jamming out from your help. I had what seems to be a cheaper model. The pot casing didn't even have screws. I pried it off with ease and tinkered with the inner workings. I couldn't have fixed it without your inspiration. I might have a been a cheap plastic toy but the pride it gave me in fixing was well worth the few bucks. YOU ROCK! Add me to the Geek girl club.

    1. Hi, I also have one without screws that doesn't move. Hope I will be able to open it but I'm afraid some parts will break when I do it. Maybe the newer models don't have screws?
      Anyway, thanks to Geek girl for this great review!

  31. ^^^^^ Opps.. I=It might have been..

  32. Thank you so much! I bought a flower for my mom and it was DOA. When I opened it up, the wires that connected the coil to the chip were taped to a side and touching each other. I *carefully* removed the tape and uncrossed them. Two hours later after messing with the temperamental wires, our little plant is "rockin' and rollin'" (my mom's term)and all put together again.

  33. Thank you, my flip flap has fallen and, thanks to your explanation and little help from my friend to hava the right crucidrive, it is flip - flaping again :)

  34. My flip flap also has no screws. Fell off table and broke. No luck to open to repair.

  35. The flaps without 4 screws can be opened for repair. Just take a plastic card and insert it between the split's on the side, This will open the outer covers into 2 plastic covers which then allows access.

  36. Thanks for the info because i have bought this plant for the first time. I was confused to see it with no instructions but i searched on the internet till i got here. I will be now careful to take it out of the packaging. REMARKABLE REMARKS FOR UR WEBSITE!!! THANKS ALLOT!!!

  37. Our Solar Flower is a different brand but the mechanism is basically the same. Ours fell off the window ledge and broke the right leaf pivot pin. I cut the stub off, drilled a very small hole and inserted the end of a toothpick. The toothpick is now the new pivot pin "Sparky" as we call it is back in operation!

  38. Wel, ive followed ur instructions n mines stil dead!!! The magnet is in place, non of the wires are detatched, no breaks seem to be present in any of the components, and the leaves are all sat in place! Any suggestions lol?

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  40. My mother mailed me my flip flap in her last care package, sadly the trip from America to China killed it. Either that or my cats did, regardless I saw your post and now I have googled phillips head screwdriver in Chinese so hopefully I can get my plant back to its happy flipping and flapping.

  41. You are my HERO. I CANT WAIT TO GET HOME. :)

  42. My sister gave it to me so I didn't want to toss it. I was able to repair it with your instructions. Thank you very much!

  43. I tried the option of opening up my solar flower to put the magnet back in place but the case snapped in my hand
    So im having to buy a new one 😔

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  46. Thank you! I fixed mine just by opening and closing it, except the flower doesn't move, just the leaves. That's ok, but I'm wondering what makes the flower move. It doesn't have any magnet I can see but it probably should swing back and forth as the leaves go up and down.

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