Washington Post (April 9) carries a review of now topical Apple watch under the title, “Should you buy an Apple watch?” It begins with the following statement:

This is a good product with a bright future. - - Anyone who was hoping that the Watch would flop out of the box and fall short of the high standard that Apple boasts for its products is going to be disappointed. There's also no doubt, from these reviews, that Apple's smartwatch is immediately the best of its kind on the market.- from The Washington Post.

I found “Something flops onto something” as an example of “flop” usage as a verb in Collins Cobuild English Dictionary, but was unable to find either “flop out” or “flop out of the box” in both Collins Cobuild and Concise Oxford Dictionary at hand.

What does “flop out of the box” mean? Is it a popular turn of phrase?

  • 2
    flop: "1. fall, move, or hang in a heavy, loose, and ungainly way." Tongue-in-cheek re-reading gives "2. informal (of a performer or show) be completely unsuccessful; fail totally." ODO oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/flop
    – Kris
    Apr 9, 2015 at 5:37
  • "Flop out of the box" is not common, nor is it meant to be a phrase per se, but the verb of something flopping is common and it is used in this way within the article Apr 9, 2015 at 15:06
  • "out of the box" meaning 'at once' is probably an allusion to horse racing, where a race goes from the starting stall's box to the finish line. So the phrase is an inversion of this, to evoke a failure so immediate it is as if the product failed from the very start of the race.
    – Oldcat
    Apr 10, 2015 at 17:55

3 Answers 3


The idiomatic part of the sentence is out of the box:

  • (idiomatic, of a product) Immediately, without intervention from the customer.

    • This software has to work out of the box, without any fancy installation. (Wiktionary)
  • An out of the box feature or functionality, particularly in software, is a feature or functionality of a product that works immediately after installation without any configuration or modification.

    • For instance, if connecting to the internet through wifi immediately after installing the operating system requires no driver installation or configuring, the wifi is said to "work out of the box". This is an important distinction, since several wifi adapters do not necessarily function properly without some user participation in installation or setup. (Wikipedia)
  • In a tech/software context I'd say that the expression is fairly popular!

Ngram- work out of the box.

To flop:

  • (intr) to fail; be unsuccessful: the scheme flopped.(Collins)

So the meaning the author wants to convey is that those who expect the watch to be a complete failure are going to be disappointed because most likely it will be be successful.

P.S.: not to be confused wiht the expression think out of the box:

  • a metaphor that means to think differently, unconventionally, or from a new perspective. This phrase often refers to novel or creative thinking.

From Oxford Dictionaries (OD), right out of the box is a U.S. expression meaning immediately, from the very beginning. Out of the box here is just a variant of that expression.

And, flop means to be completely unsuccessful, fail totally (OD).

The meaning can also be determined from the context: reviews show that the watch was immediately successful, which is disappointing to some who hoped or expected otherwise.


"Flop" can mean to fail .... the word "flop" is common enough. "flop out of the box is a phrase that I have never heard before but it is easy to figure out its meaning.

So, in this context, the phrase "flop out of the box" means to fail immediately, or fail when it was first seen.

With the case of the Apple watch, Apple finally showed the watch several weeks ago after many years of talking about it. When it was shown to the public, the feeling (among Apple product users anyway) was that the watch might be a winner. There were no obvious flaws during the introduction. Now the product may fail in the future if sales do not show acceptance of the product. But so far many people think there is a possibility for the product.

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