Here's the iPhone I'd buy over Black Friday

iPhone 13 Pro Max
(Image credit: TechRadar)

Here’s the hard truth: it’s not the best time to buy an iPhone. Apple is having supply issues. Orders are delayed. That doesn’t mean you can’t save money on a Black Friday iPhone deal, it just means that deal is going to be harder to find, or it might come with strings attached. 

By the law of supply and demand, when demand is so much larger than the supply, the suppliers don’t need to offer Black Friday deals

Apple supports iPhones longer than any other manufacturer, so you can feel comfortable buying an older device

You won’t find a price drop yet on a new iPhone 14, an iPhone 14 Pro, or any of the best iPhones. I’m not even seeing bundles with new Airpods Pro 2, or a few AirTags thrown in. That’s no problem! I have a few creative options, and one not so creative, for finding an iPhone deal. Here’s where I’d look.

First of all, Apple is still selling older iPhone models dating back to the iPhone 12, so it’s easy to find last year’s phone in brand-new condition. Apple supports iPhones longer than any other manufacturer, so you can feel comfortable buying an older device, knowing it will get the latest OS and software support for years.

Second, if you can’t save money on a new model, you can always buy one used. I strongly recommend devices renewed by the manufacturer, and I’ll show you where to look and which devices are the strongest deals this Black Friday.

iPhone 11 Pro Max

iPhone 11 Pro Max (Image credit: Future)

Finally, if you have a recent phone to trade, even if it’s broken, you can find great deals that give you a little extra for your trade-in. I’ve got an iPhone 11 and an iPhone 11 Pro Max that my kiddo and I have retired, and I’ll find the best deal if we decide to upgrade.

Here's the slightly older iPhone you should buy

The iPhone 13 Pro Max in Sierra Blue in hand against a blurred nature background

The iPhone 13 Pro Max (Image credit: TechRadar)

If I’m buying a slightly older iPhone, I’d go for the iPhone 13 Pro or iPhone 13 Pro Max. Anecdotally, I’ve heard folks who upgraded from the iPhone 13 Pro lament the loss of battery life when comparing their new iPhone 14 to the older phone. There may be truth to this.

Our friend Arun Maini at @MrWhoseTheBoss on YouTube did a full battery test on every iPhone Apple currently sells. The iPhone 13 outperformed the iPhone 14 by two minutes. That seems inconsequential, but why isn’t the new phone beating the older phone conclusively? The biggest improvement I want to see every year in my new phone is battery life. I never want a downgrade.

For that reason, I say that if the iPhone 13 Pro has better battery life than the iPhone 14 Pro, buy the cheaper phone. The extra money you spend on the iPhone 14 Pro gets you a better camera, a slightly better display, and that weird Dynamic Island. If you’re hunting for a deal, I’d recommend saving your money and getting the phone with a better battery.

Here's the used iPhone you should buy

iPhone 11 pro

iPhone 11 Pro (Image credit: Future)

If you don’t have an iPhone to trade, it’s harder to get a good deal on a new device. Most retailers offer devices that are, in some fashion, used phones. You can find Refurbished iPhones directly from Apple, Renewed iPhones available from Amazon, or even Pre-Owned iPhones from Best Buy.

Most of these seem to be inspected by the retailer and work just fine, though they won’t always come in the original packaging. Amazon has a Renewed Premium offer that isn’t much more expensive. It claims to give you a phone in almost new condition. The refurbished devices from Apple will be indistinguishable from new ones, but Apple’s prices are much higher than other retailers. 

When you’re shopping around for a used iPhone, I’d recommend the iPhone 11 family, especially the iPhone 11 Pro. With the iPhone 11, Apple got serious about cameras, giving the Pro model extra lenses and sensors. The design matured significantly, as well, with smoothly rounded edges compared to the iPhone X models. That midnight green color is really lovely, too. 

iPhone 11 Pro Max

The iPhone 11 Pro Max in midnight green (Image credit: Future)

Amazon sells the iPhone 11 Pro Renewed for under $400 in the US, making it less expensive than a brand-new iPhone SE. Between the two, the iPhone 11 Pro is a much better choice, with better cameras, battery life, and a nicer display.

Plus, Apple supports its phones long enough that you can probably expect three more years of iOS updates on an iPhone 11 Pro. The iPhone 8 was updated to iOS 16 this year. Most flagship Android phones get barely three years of updates, so you won’t feel left behind with this iPhone.

Here’s the iPhone you should sell your sou… sign a contract to buy

Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max full home screen

iPhone 14 Pro Max (Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

I’ve got an iPhone to trade, and I haven’t switched my mobile network provider in years. Actually, I have two iPhones, my old iPhone 11 Pro Max, and my kid’s iPhone 11. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to trade two phones for one, so I’ll compare to see what I can get for free if I’m willing to trade each phone. 

If I’m willing to sign a three-year contract, I can trade an iPhone 11 and get an iPhone 14 on Verizon, even if my iPhone 11 has a broken screen. That saves me $800 over the life of my contract. 

Apple will give me $200 for my iPhone 11 if it’s in great shape, but because it’s cracked, they suggest I recycle it. Yup, Apple thinks my trade is garbage, while Verizon will swap it for the newest iPhone. 

Apple iPhone 14 Pro Dynamic Island closeup

Dynamic Island on the iPhone 14 Pro (Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

For my iPhone 11 Pro Max, I can get a free iPhone 14 Pro. For $100 more, I can get an iPhone 14 Pro Max. Verizon kindly splits that $100 over your 36-month contract, so for less than $3 a month you get the biggest, baddest iPhone.

A better iPhone now means a better iPhone later

You’ll thank me when you trade it in later. Apple phones hold their value, and paying an extra $100 now for the Pro Max model will likely net you $100 later for the trade.

While I’m no fan of signing such a long contract agreement, it’s the best way to reclaim value for your old phone. You’re going to be paying a mobile network anyway, so you might as well reap the benefit of a massive phone discount for your loyalty.

Let’s say I leave the contract early and trade my new iPhone 14 Pro Max in two years. I’ll owe a third of the price of the phone, but that is still a huge discount, and what I saved is much more than what my trade was worth. The Pro Max should be an excellent trade in two years, and if I can keep the screen in good shape (or invest in the extended warranty), I can hop on another free iPhone deal when the time comes.

Philip Berne
US Mobiles Editor

Phil Berne is a preeminent voice in consumer electronics reviews, starting more than 20 years ago at Phil has written for Engadget, The Verge, PC Mag, Digital Trends, Slashgear, TechRadar, AndroidCentral, and was Editor-in-Chief of the sadly-defunct infoSync. Phil holds an entirely useful M.A. in Cultural Theory from Carnegie Mellon University. He sang in numerous college a cappella groups.

Phil did a stint at Samsung Mobile, leading reviews for the PR team and writing crisis communications until he left in 2017. He worked at an Apple Store near Boston, MA, at the height of iPod popularity. Phil is certified in Google AI Essentials. He has a High School English teaching license (and years of teaching experience) and is a Red Cross certified Lifeguard. His passion is the democratizing power of mobile technology. Before AI came along he was totally sure the next big thing would be something we wear on our faces.