WATERVILLE, Maine — Sweet, succulent lobster meat may be delicious when eaten straight out of the shell, but getting to it isn’t always easy, even for native Mainers.
Colby College Web programmer Ben Greeley noticed that particular problem at a spring family lobster bake in Maine.
“People were sitting around and didn’t know how to get into the lobster,” Greeley, originally from Thorndike, said this week. “It was a little eye-opening.”
That’s when he decided the world could use a handy tool that would offer step-by-step instructions on cracking lobsters and more, and so the iLobster smart phone application — with the catchy tag line “Click. Crack. Eat.” — was created.
“My hope is that people use it, and they carry it with them on summer vacation,” Greeley, a 2006 University of Maine graduate, said. “Or, if people are true fans of lobsters, they can use it as their No. 1 stop.”
He and business partner Robert Hernandez, both of Waterville, have worked since April on the iLobster app, which is now available for iPhones and other Apple devices. If the Apple version is successful, they hope to create another for Android phones.
It costs $1.99 at the iTunes App Store to download the full version of iLobster, which features Hernandez’s bold hand-drawn illustrations and a handy video guide to getting into a lobster.
It’s an updated answer to the ubiquitous paper placemats that have “how to eat a lobster” illustrations that appear to have been drawn a half-century ago, according to Greeley.
“Essentially, we want to modernize,” he said.
Other highlights of iLobster include the ability to locate nearby restaurants that serve lobster from anywhere in the country, to find lobster pounds and to order fresh Maine lobster from local dealers, including Harrigan’s Seafood Co. in Belfast.
A free version of the application offers only the restaurant search feature, they said.
It is the second iPhone application Greeley has created, and so far, the two are pleased with its debut. There have been more than 100 downloads of both the free and paid versions since it went live on July 10, they said.
“It’s nice to see people downloading it,” Greeley said.
The duo has been working hard to spread the word in places where lobster lovers congregate. They spent some time recently at the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland, clad in special iLobster shirts and offering their services.
“We saw a lot of people who needed help getting into their lobsters,” Hernandez said. “For the most part, [the offer] was well-received.”
They say they have proof that iLobster is a great teaching tool.
Hernandez and his family moved to Maine from Southern California three years ago, when he took a position as the senior graphic designer in the Colby College Office of Communications. Although his wife loved lobster, she wasn’t confident in her lobster-cracking skills, he said.
“When we first moved to Maine, she didn’t know what she was doing. She’d always order the lazy lobster,” Hernandez said. “Since the app, she can crack open lobsters like a pro now, and she orders a lot of it, too.”
He and Greeley said that iLobster was not expensive to create, since they provided their own talent. They literally ate a few of the startup costs, including buying the lobster for the step-by-step video. Now, they’re hoping the application will find an audience hungry for Maine lobster.
“We live here and know that the best lobster comes from Maine,” Greeley said.
“We’d like to remind people that it’s good to eat lobster all year round,” he said. “We want people to understand, if you already know how to eat a lobster, this app does a lot more than that. Really, it’s for anyone who’s a fan of lobster.”