Microsoft on Monday launched Windows Phone 8, revealing its full feature set for the first time and providing details about handset pricing and availability in the United States and beyond. Although Windows Phone 8 looks and works like an evolved version of its predecessors, it is in fact a new mobile system based on Windows 8 that stacks up nicely against the Google Android and Apple iPhone market leaders.

“We can’t wait for the world to meet Windows Phone 8, the most personal smartphone there is,” said Microsoft Corporate VP Terry Myerson, who oversees the firm’s struggling Windows Phone Division. “Windows Phone 8 comes on a range of phones that are stunning, colorful, and unique.”

Microsoft bills Windows Phone 8 as the world’s most personal smartphone and contrasts its integrated live experiences and live tiles with the static grid of icons that marks the iPhone and Android handsets. For this release of the system, the firm has added hundreds of new features, which you can read about in "Welcome to Windows Phone 8."

But to take on the competition, Windows Phone needs apps and innovative new hardware. It has both.

On the software front, Microsoft claims that Windows Phone has 46 of the top 50 apps and games that are available on Android and iPhone. The company also says there are now more than 120,000 Windows Phone apps, undercutting cheap complaints about the lack of apps on this platform. And key new apps and games, like Cut the Rope, LivingSocial, Temple Run, Urbanspoon, and others will appear over the holiday season, with more, such as Pandora—coming with one free year of ad-free music only on Windows Phone 8—arriving in early 2013.

Looking at the hardware, devices like the HTC Windows Phone 8X and 8S, and the Nokia Lumia 920 and 820, are better looking than anything from the Apple or Android horde. Also, Microsoft and its partners mostly came clean on pricing and availability, announcing that new Windows Phone 8 handsets would ship on AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon in November.

AT&T was the least transparent. It will carry the Nokia Lumia 920, the Lumia 820, and the Windows Phone 8X by HTC, all starting in November. But no pricing was shared at the event.

T-Mobile will carry the HTC Windows Phone 8X ($149.99) and the Nokia Lumia 810 ($99.99), with both devices going on sale November 14.

And Windows Phone holdout Verizon is all in this time around: The carrier will sell the HTC 8X ($199.99), the Nokia Lumia 822( $99.99, exclusive to Verizon), and the Samsung ATIV Odyssey (also exclusive to Verizon). The first two will ship by Thanksgiving, with the mysterious new Odyssey arriving in December.