Verizon Wireless announced the BlackBerry Curve 9310 smartphone will go on sale for $49.99 after rebate, with a two-year service plan, starting with online sales Thursday and in stores in the "coming weeks."
The BlackBerry Curve 9310 smartphone.
The announcement came just minutes before BlackBerry maker Research in Motion was set to begin its annual shareholders meeting. About two weeks ago, the company reported $500 million in reduced first-quarter profits and a 40% decline in sales.
RIM also announced then that it would ship BlackBerry 10 smartphones in early 2013, a further delay that helped send RIM's stock price plunging 19% in one day.
The Curve 9310 and runs the current BlackBerry 7.1 operating system and comes with a physical keyboard, the preference among some of RIM's most solid customers. The 9310's styling looks like many previous Curve models, with its smaller 2.44-in. screen, below which sits a central touch navigation keypad and physical keys in a Qwerty keyboard.
Many analysts and even some at RIM have admitted the BlackBerry has not kept up with successful touchscreen smartphones with large screens like the 3.5-in. iPhone and Android phone models that range from 4-in. to 5.3-in. in screen size.
The 9310's display is 320 x 420 pixels, putting its resolution well below more expensive smartphones.
Verizon and RIM noted in a statement that the 9310 is intended to "help customers make the move from a basic phone to a smartphone," which is partly indicated by its low price.
There is also a dedicated key for access to BlackBerry Messenger, RIM's social network that is most popular outside of the U.S.
Facebook and Twitter apps are easily accessible for real-time updates with RIM's Social Feeds 2.0 app. A 3.2-megapixel camera is included, as well as a microSD card slot for up to 32GB of storage. It runs a 1,450 mAh battery and overall is 4.29 in x 2.36 in. x 0.5 in. in size and weighs 3.66 ounces.
Verizon requires buyers to sign up for a Share Everything plan starting at $80 a month for unlimited text, talk and 300 MB of data service that can be shared with up to nine other devices.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is email@example.com.