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Re: One, S4, Moto X, or Xperia Z
I'm personally ordering the Moto X, but the HTC One would have been my next in line of currently available phones.
I haven't looked into at the Xperia Z at all and have no care to even though I really like my Xperia TL (Only problem is lackluster battery life).
The Xperia Z is a no-starter for me because I loathe the form factor. I feel that ergonomics and form factor are extremely important in a phone. I rarely use two hands to use my phone because I'm regularly carrying something with my other, so the one-handed use is critical to me.
The reason why I hate the Xperia Z form factor is it is to large in the width and height yet to skinny so it feels really horrible in my hand. I also strongly think that glass backed phones were one of the worst ideas in the phone industry.
The Galaxy S4 is still slightly to large for me to comfortably use one-handed because I cannot use enough of the screen without compromising my grip on the phone risking a fall, and the Galaxy S4 is much to fragile to allow that.
As per the criteria you gave:
1. Good battery life to last through college classes- with straight usage/on screen time it appears the Moto X, HTC One, and Galaxy S4 are all more or less on par. Many reviewers said the Moto X was able to eke out the longest lasting during browsing/video/gaming tests but others said it lagged behind slightly. The Moto X should get much more time though if its features are utilized. The Active Display means that you don't have to be turning your phone on constantly during class or when you are out and about to check the time, or manage your notifications as you get them. This in itself can help manage the battery much better than its competitors. It is also unclear what all sensors are managed by the Contextual Processor, but if it is handling some GPS, Wifi and antenna sensor data then that would be leading to much better standby battery life as these are the main culprits of battery drain.
Summary: All user reviews and most professional reviewers I've seen have said the Moto X has the best battery when put through "Moderate" usage, it will be much closer to par with heavy use and far outshine with light use. That said, the other phones should be able to last through the day as well, and the Galaxy S4 has a replaceable battery if anything urgent comes up or anything happens to your first one.
2. Hi-Res screen:
As far as what I have seen and heard, the quality of the phones goes from HTC One -> Galaxy S4 -> Moto X. That said, the Moto X has an excellent screen, and many people say that the screen is actually better than their GS4 one, so I'd say it is not to shabby although it is a 720p screen. (The GS4 is pentile so the 1080p is not actually as good as a RGB one would be) At the 4.7" the only time the 720p should even be noticable is when you are scrutinizing the HTC One and Moto X next to each other from a closer distance than normal.
Summary: The HTC One is definitely the winner, but the Galaxy S4 and Moto X trail by such a close margin that I feel this is only an issue when comparing screens in non-use situations.
3. Great Camera: Right now the HTC One and Galaxy S4 have very good and reliable cameras. The Moto X has a much more streamlined camera that is the quickest to open and get ready to take pictures but currently is more unpredictable in the outcomes. It appears to be good at taking pictures of moving objects and stationary objects with HDR but can do some funny things when there is challenging light. These appear to be software related although nobody can confirm it.
The HTC One and Galaxy S4 have many more features in their cameras like Zoes, and the ability to capture images from the front and back cameras at the same time. The Moto X has good slo-motion video capture and the burst shot pictures are very useful and from the reviews when put onto Google+ show up animated (I am awaiting my phone to test this out)
I feel that it is important to note that when the HTC One first came out it was taking much worse pictures than the competition but HTC was able to send out some software updates that fixed it up nicely. Historically Motorola has had poor cameras in their phones and didn't fix them through software updates... BUT now that Google owns Motorola they may put more pressure on them to attempt some fixes to the challenging lighting situations and unpredictability but I wouldn't necessarily hold my breath.
Summary: All of them have very good cameras, with the Moto X leaning to the simple quick operation and the other two to the more robust but currently the average picture quality of the HTC One and Galaxy S4 surpass the Moto X.
4. Not too cluttered of UI: Both the One and the GS4 have in my opinion much to clutter and bloat on their UI. The GS4's settings menu's are absolutely atrocious when you need to find a specific toggle, and the overall UI is extremely cartoonish and I find the wacky font it always uses very difficult to read. The One is much more classy and the use you get out of Blinkfeed will vary depending on what you want from it. I personally really dislike it, would never use it, and would want to disable it to no avail. That said, both can be ignored with the addition of another launcher such as Apex Launcher, or Nova Launcher from the Play Store but they will still be on your phone putting strain on its limited resources.
This is really a personal question as to which UI you will find the best use from. I personally like the much lighter UI that the Moto X has.
I think another important aspect of overall UI although its not software related is the button layout. I absolutely loathe the capacitive button layout and the hard power button that the HTC One has. It continually frustrates me when using the phone to have the massive completely unusable HTC logo taking up the space on my row of buttons. I hate having the Home button on the far right where it is most difficult to access because my thumb does not bend that far back without adjusting my hold on the phone. I also hate that because they chose to advertize their company they force you to make do with only two capacitive buttons. It either completely restricts the ability to multi-task or access Google Now, both of which are extremely important functions to the smooth and robust workings of Android. The Power button being on the top makes it hard to access when picking up the phone and holding it, and the volume buttons and power button are much to flush with the body of the phone and make it a pain to find and use.
When I use my friends GS4 I always have difficulty using the two capacitive buttons because they just blend into the color of the phone. I don't care for the Home button as well, and I think it just doesn't blend as well into Android, although these issues are not nearly as detrimental to my enjoyment of the phone as HTC's effort.
5. Feels good in the hand- In this case the Moto X most likely will be the hands-down (or in hand) winner. The phone is just a joy to hold and talk on. The complex curve of the back just makes it feel like it was designed to fit comfortably in the hand. The compact size is also great for actually using one-handed while still giving enough screen real-estate to easily do whatever you want on the phone. The HTC is not bad for the most part. It is slightly wider but the rounded back still feels pretty good. It is more difficult to use one-handed though because the height and horrendous button placement makes it difficult to reach the entire screen without constantly changing your grip. (Very personal preference I do not care for aluminum body phones. I feel that the metal makes them to slippery and the weight of the HTC One makes me fear that it will perpetually slip out of my hand unless I grip the phone uncomfortably. This is the same issue I have with my Xperia TL).
The Galaxy S4 most definitely falls behind the other two on this front, because the size, thinness, and button placement all the way at the bottom edge of the device IMO make it uncomfortable to hold and difficult to use one-handed.