Windows Phone 8 has launched, just after Windows 8 became available to buy. They make quite the pair, but should you be rejecting the latest Android phones and the iPhone 5 for a Microsoft-powered mobile? Here's a little more on what Windows Phone 8 is all about.
What is Windows Phone 8?
Windows Phone 8 is Microsoft's latest mobile phone OS, set to take over from the moderately-popular Windows Phone 7. It could be Microsoft's last chance to make a significant dent in the market shares of iOS and Android, which the last Windows mobile operating system failed to do.
Windows Phone 7 vs Windows Phone 8
Windows Phone 8 is what Windows Phone 7 should have been from the off. It frees up the system, removing most of the limitations that kept the previous Microsoft OS under such tight reins.
Windows Phone 7 phones couldn't have multi-core processors or screens above 480 x 854 pixels in resolution, when HD-res screens and quad-core chips are now the norm. The top-end Windows Phone 8 phones still only have dual-core processors, but as Windows for mobiles is much more efficient than Android, you can expect seriously impressive performance.
Windows Phone 8 also changes the way the system's home screen works. Instead of mostly regular-sized Live Tiles, which made up the home screen in Windows Phone 7, they can now get a lot smaller or larger. This will let you make much more effective use of space than before.
What are the Windows Phone 8 phones?
You can expect more Windows Phone 8 mobiles to surface soon, but three of the biggest names in phone-making have already stepped up to the plate. Launch devices will be available from HTC, Nokia and Samsung.
Windows Phone 8X by HTC
SIM-free cost - £400
The flagship Windows Phone 8 device from HTC is called the "Windows Phone 8X by HTC", which could prove a bit confusing if you ask us. It's the key device Microsoft is using to promote the new OS, where last time it got into bed with Nokia, and phones like the Lumia 800.
Strange naming aside, it's an impressive phone with a 4.3in 720p resolution screen and 8-megapixel camera. Powering the phone is a dual-core Snapdragon S4 1.5GHz processor by Qualcomm. With a colourful body available in blue, yellow, red and black shades, it reminds a bit of the "old" Nokia Lumia 900.
Windows Phone 8S by HTC
SIM-free cost - £220
The "S" model in the HTC Windows Phone 8 series is the lower-end option in the HTC range, which you can buy SIM-free for a little over £200. It's not pocket change, but it is much cheaper than most Windows Phone 8 devices.
In the trade-off you lose the impressive screen - the Windows Phone 8S by HTC's 4-inch screen resolution is 480 x 800 pixels - and the 5-megapixel camera is less impressive too. However, most of the smartphone goodness is in-tact. The dual-core Snapdragon S4 1GHz processor is nippy enough, and while the internal memory is lacking at just 4GB, there is a microSD memory card slot here.
Samsung Ativ S
SIM-free cost - £440
Samsung's Windows Phone 8 take on the Samsung Galaxy S3, the Ativ S is sure to raise a few eyebrows. Its screen is much larger than the "official" Windows Phone 8X at 4.8 inches across. To compensate for the extra screen space, the battery is a humungous 2,300mAh unit. Samsung has clearly tried quite hard to make this the powerhouse Windows Phone 8 mobile.
Other specs are on a level with the Windows Phone 8X's, though. There's a dual-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon Krait processor and an 8-megapixel main camera here. The Samsung Ativ S is exclusive to Phones 4U in the UK.
Nokia Lumia 920
SIM-free cost - £470
The Nokia Lumia 920 lands in-between the Samsung Ativ S and the Windows Phone 8X in terms of screen size. It offers a 4.5-inch display, with 768 x 1,280 pixel resolution. This is actually slightly higher than either the Samsung or HTC phones, giving a slightly chunkier aspect screen.
There's 32GB of internal memory and - like the other top-end Windows Phone 8 models, no microSD memory card slot. The Nokia Lumia 920 uses a Snapdragon Krait chipset, its dual cores clocked at 1.5GHz. One of the most desirable features in our book is the classic Lumia-series design, making this arguably the most attractive Windows Phone 8 phone available.
Nokia Lumia 820
SIM-free cost - £350
The cheaper Nokia model in the Windows Phone 8 line-up is the Nokia Lumia 820. It doesn't adopt the classic Lumia lines, though, opting for a more practical look.
The Nokia Lumia 820 offers a 4.3-inch 480 x 800 pixel screen, 8-megapixel camera and 8GB of internal memory that can be supplemented by a microSD memory card. It also has the same dual-core Krait Snapdragon processor seen in the Samsung Ativ S and Lumia 920. It's impressive for a "lesser-specced" model. However, bear in mind that this is significantly more expensive than the Windows Phone 8S by HTC - around £120-130 more expensive.
These are the leading mobile phones for the Windows Phone 8 launch. Other mobiles expected to land soon include the Huawei Ascend W1, and ZTE entries are also likely further down the line.
When will Windows Phone 8 phones be available?
The first Windows Phone 8 mobiles will be available from November. For the latest on specific dates for phones, check out our Mobile Phone News feed.
Will my Windows Phone 7 handset get Windows Phone 8?
Owners of Windows Phone 7 mobiles are out of luck - your mobiles will not get the upgrade to Windows Phone 8. Instead, Microsoft is offering an updates to what it calls Windows Phone 7.5. These are meant to offer some of the features of Windows Phone 8, within the core of version 7. However, how long it'll be supported and what features the older phones will get to enjoy we'll have to wait to find out.
What do you think of Windows Phone? Let us know your view in the comments.