BlackBerry 10 may be set for an official unveiling later this month, but that doesn't mean that we won't be seeing any new BlackBerry 7.1 handsets hit carrier shelves in the meantime. T-Mobile and RIM this morning announced the BlackBerry Curve 9315, a variant of the Curve 9310 that features the BlackBerry 7.1 OS and a dedicated BlackBerry Messenger key on its side. Also included with the Curve 9315 is a 2.44-inch 320x240 display, built-in FM radio, 3.2-megapixel camera and microSD card slot.
As far as availability goes, T-Mobile business customers will get the first crack at the new handset thanks to an exclusive pre-sale that'll kick off on Jan. 16. A full launch in T-Mobile stores and online is scheduled for Jan. 23. Pricing will be set at a down payment of $49.99 with 20 monthly payments of $10 each for T-Mobile Value plan customers, while folks that'd prefer the Classic plan route can expect to pony up $49.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate.
It may be kind of strange to some to see a BlackBerry 7.1 handset arriving weeks before RIM debuts its shiny new OS, but this new Curve is aimed at customers that just want an affordable smartphone that can help them to chat with their friends. RIM has said in the past that it'll continue to push low-end and mid-range BlackBerry 7 handsets after the debut of BlackBerry 10 until it's built up a full range of BB10 products, so don't be surprised if we see more handsets like the 9315 in the coming months. The full announcement of the new Curve is available at the link below.