Microsoft has just launched Windows 8, and in a few weeks, you’ll be able to find the next generation of Windows on smartphones, with Windows Phone 8 hitting handsets late November. We went hands-on with new devices from Samsung, HTC, and Nokia to see just what they’re like.

Heading to stores in late November, Windows Phone 8 will bring with it a customisable start screen to let you decide on how you want your phone to look.

It’s more than just the simple square icons everywhere, because this is a platform that has evolved from the same idea that exists in Microsoft’s latest operating form: a long flowing screen of the most important shortcuts and pieces of your life, kept in squares known as live tiles that act as shortcuts and widgets.

These tiles can show more than just a name, actually relaying real updated information, like Windows 8’s shortcuts do, such as Twitter updates, Facebook information, short messages, recent pictures, and more, and you’ll find three sizes – small, medium, and large – so you can fit as much on your phone home screen as you want.

Smartphone owners with kids will also appreciate “Kid’s Corner,” a new feature that allows you to make a special home screen just for your kids with specific apps only, limiting the little ones from seeing your emails, making phone calls, and buying things off the store. Activating it is pretty simple – swiping to a different side – and your kids get a special home screen just for them but made by you.

Microsoft has also added support for “rooms” that can let you chat to friends using Windows Phone devices, as well as other services out there, and included a better Skype experience, as well as the future of mobile payment technology with Near-Field Communication.

But all of these advances are nothing without the hardware, and there are three manufacturers launching products in Australia.

First, we took a gander at Samsung, which had one handset to show us: the ATIV S.

Samsung was pretty talkative about its Windows 8 products in August, and is one of the only companies with a Windows Phone 8 device that has tablets and laptops with the sibling desktop operating system.

This phone looks to continue the success of the Galaxy S3, taking a similar design from the popular Android handset but making it a touch more square, the ATIV S offers up a 4.8 inch Super AMOLED screen covered in Gorilla Glass 2, and pairing it with a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, microSD upgrade, 8 megapixel rear camera with dedicated shooting button on the side, 2300mAh battery, and even Navigon’s turn-by-turn GPS navigation software for free.

In the hands, it feels like a Galaxy S3, with a plastic body and slightly different curves, but the stainless steel paint is a nice look for the handset.

Optus will be the sole provider of this handset, with the Samsung ATIV S arriving in December. It will also be available for outright purchase in the Samsung Experience Stores and select retailers.