Virgin Mobile has begun accepting pre-orders today for the ZTE Venture portrait QWERTY handset, which first popped up in render form back in December. It would seem that not much has changed between then and now for the $99 Android 2.3 device, which Virgin has slated for a March 15th release. Typically our expectations are somewhat tempered when dealing with a $99 prepaid smartphone, and the Venture is unlikely to change that stance. It's a run-of-the-mill Gingerbread handset through and through, offering a 2.8-inch touchscreen display and 2-megapixel camera among its specs of note.

The custom Android UI is powered along by a 600MHz processor and 512MB of RAM. There's no word on internal storage capacity, though Virgin is bundling a 2GB microSD card with the package. Smartphones with physical keyboards seem to be a dying breed, so the Venture may prove to have a place for heavy texters looking to avoid long-term carrier commitments. Virgin's prepaid plans for the device start at $35 per month.

Update: We mistakenly believed the Venture was manufactured by ZTE; according to Phone Scoop, it's actually an Alcatel One Touch product, and shares a design similar to the One Touch 915.