Judging by current growth rates, the coming holiday season is likely to be a big one for smartphones and tablets – and consumers will have several new choices of what to put on their wish list as a result of announcements made over the past few days.

Within a week after Apple announced a new smaller iPad and a new version of the full-size iPad, Microsoft and Google both have announced new mobile offerings.  Read details here and/or scroll through to our comparison chart including all three companies at the end of this post.

Microsoft offerings
Windows 8 is Microsoft’s new mobile operating system, which will be available “in coming weeks” on new smartphones from Nokia, HTC and Samsung, Microsoft said. The devices will be offered for as little as $99.99 for the Nokia Lumia 810 from T-Mobile or the Nokia Lumia 822 from Verizon Wireless. Those carriers also plan to offer HTC’s Windows Phone 8X, with T-Mobile charging $149.99 and Verizon charging $199.99. All pricing is based on a two-year contract.

AT&T also plans to carry the Nokia Lumia 920 and 820, as well as the HTC Windows Phone 8X but has not yet revealed pricing.

Some of the more notable features of Windows 8 include:

  • Data Sense, which helps conserve data by compressing web images, deferring data tasks to Wi-Fi and automatically adjusting usage as users get closer to their plan limits. Verizon will be the first carrier in the U.S. to offer Data Sense, with other carriers being added next year.
  • Live Apps automatically brings real-time information from applications such as Facebook.
  • Live Tiles appear to be the mobile equivalent of desktop icons, enabling users to customize their start screen with “their favorite people, apps, music, games photos and more.”
  • An always-on Skype phone application that is “coming soon”

Microsoft’s smartphone announcement came on the heels of the company’s announcement from Friday about its Surface tablet line. Previewed back in June, the Surface tablets do not have mobile data capability, but instead rely on WiFi.

Microsoft said on Friday that the consumer model of the Surface — Surface for Windows RT — is now available at a price of $499. The company  also said it will “soon” launch the Microsoft Surface with Windows 8 Pro but did not reveal pricing on that model, which is targeted toward the business market.

Google Nexus
Google yesterday launched a range of new and upgraded devices, including the Nexus 4 smartphone, as well as two tablets – the Nexus 7 with a seven-inch screen and the Nexus 10 with a ten-inch screen. All of the devices come with Android 4.2, the latest version of Google’s Android Jelly Bean operating system.

New features include:

  • Gesture Typing, which according to Google “lets you glide your finger over the letters you want to type [making] typing fast, fun and a whole lot simpler.”
  • Photo Sphere, which uses the built-in camera to create “360-degree immersive experiences” that can be shared with friends and family

The only carrier announced for any of the Google devices was T-Mobile, which will carry the 16 GB Nexus  4 with WiFi and HSPA+ capability for $199 with a two-year contract. The same version of the product, available “unlocked and without a contract” will sell for $349 from Google, along with an 8GB version that will sell for $299. It’s worth noting, though, that because the product uses GSM/ HSPA+ technology, the only major U.S. networks it will work on are those of AT&T and T-Mobile.

Google is being considerably more aggressive with Nexus 7 tablet pricing. The Nexus 7 WiFi-only models include a 16 GB version that will sell for $199 and a 32 GB version that will sell for $249 through Google and a range of retailers including Gamestop, Office Depot, Office Max, Staples and Walmart.

Google also will offer a 32GB Nexus 7 with WiFi and HSPA+ for $299, available only from Google.

The Nexus10 does not include mobile data connectivity. WiFi-only versions will sell for $399 and $499, respectively, for 16GB and 32 GB models, with the 16GB model available only from Google and the 32 GB model available from Walmart as well as Google.

The 16GB version of the Nexus 4 is available now, with the other new Google products to follow shortly.

New Mobile Devices Compared- Tablets

Device Operating System Carriers Offering Price
Apple iPad Mini (7.9” screen) IOS AT&T, Sprint, Verizon $329 (16 GB WiFi) to $659 (64 GB WiFi + mobile data)
Apple iPad (fourth-generation) IOS AT&T, Sprint, Verizon $499 (16GB WiFi) to $829 (64 GB WiFi + mobile data)
Google  Nexus 7 Android 4.2 $199 (16 GB WiFi) to $299 (32 GB WiFi + mobile data)
Google Nexus 10 Android 4.2 WiFi-only $399 (16 GB) to $499 (32 GB)
Microsoft Surface RT New version of Windows (not Windows 8)  WiFi-only $499
Microsoft Surface with Windows8 Pro Windows 8 WiFi-only Not yet available

Smartphones

Google Nexus 4 Android 4.2 T-Mobile (16 GB WiFi + mobile data only) $199 for 16 GB WiFi + mobile data version from T-Mobile*
Google pricing runs from $299 for 8GB WiFi + mobile data to $349 for 16 GB  WiFi + mobile data
HTC Windows Phone 8X Windows Phone 8 AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon T-Mobile: $149.99 for 16 GB WiFi + mobile*
Verizon: $199.99*
Nokia Lumia 920 Windows Phone 8 AT&T Not yet available
Nokia Lumia 822 Windows Phone 8 Exclusive to Verizon $99.99*
Nokia Lumia 820 Windows Phone 8 AT&T Not yet available
Nokia Lumia 810 Windows Phone 8 T-Mobile $99.99*

* carrier pricing assumes a two-year contract