I don't want a cheap iPhone, I want the best iPhone 14 this Black Friday

Apple iPhone 14 Pro home screen
(Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

Do not buy the cheapest iPhone deal you can find. There are a lot of them and they all look appealing, but I can tell you from experience, that this is not how you decide which iPhone model to gift a loved one during Black Friday Deals season.

Let me tell you a story.

It was the iPhone 8. There was a fantastic Black Friday sale and, thinking I'd be the hero for getting my wife a new iPhone without breaking the bank, I bought it.

The look on my wife's face when she unwrapped it and then looked at my iPhone 12 Pro (then the latest model) was not what I would describe as pleasure. Though not a technophile like me, my wife's no Luddite and knew that – while new and still for sale at the Apple Store – the iPhone 8 did not represent the best Apple has to offer.

Eventually, I tired of the snide comments and upgraded her to an iPhone 13 (by then the newest model) and, since she didn't divorce me, I think we're okay. Still, I learned a valuable lesson: it doesn't pay to save money on a tech gift if the gadget you're giving will spark, not joy, but disappointment.

Let's take a look at the top deals and then I can explain why I like some a lot better than others.

Best iPhone Black Friday Deals

Apple iPhone 14 Plus: $10/mo with new unlimited line at Verizon

Apple iPhone 14 Plus: $10/mo with new unlimited line at Verizon
No trade-ins
are needed to get the brand new Apple iPhone 14 Plus for just $10 per month this week, thanks to Verizon's early Black Friday deals. This is the first non-trade-in carrier discount we've seen on any device in the new iPhone 14 range and a superb deal overall. The saving here totals a whopping $540, over the duration of a 36-month plan and new customers will also get an additional $200 if they switch over from another carrier.

Verizon prepaid: $300 off select iPhones

Verizon prepaid: $300 off select iPhones
Verizon's Black Friday deals include a rare promotion for prepaid users today, with a massive $300 discount available across a range of the latest models. Eligible devices include the iPhone 14, 14 Pro, 14 Pro Max, and the iPhone 13 – the latter being a particularly good buy for those on a budget. It's not every day you see this carrier offer promotions outside of its pricey unlimited data plans, so this is definitely not one to miss if you're looking to cut out those pesky long contracts. 

Apple iPhone 13 mini: free with a new unlimited data plan at Verizon

Apple iPhone 13 mini: free with a new unlimited data plan at Verizon
Alternatively, you could go for a smaller device with this week's Verizon deal on the iPhone 13 mini. This excellent little device is being given away for free with a new unlimited data line – an absolutely excellent option if you're not looking to trade in an old device. The standard iPhone 13 is available for $5 per month under the same terms, so we'd advocate skipping that model right now.

Apple iPhone 12: free with a new unlimited data plan at Verizon

Apple iPhone 12: free with a new unlimited data plan at Verizon
One of the best iPhone deals on the entire Verizon site is tied to the humble iPhone 12. Currently, no pesky trade-ins are needed to bag this device (which still holds up for 2022) for free, only a new line on an eligible unlimited data plan. Retailing for $699 upfront, this is a great deal if you don't mind opting for a slightly older model in 2022.

Apple iPhone 14 Pro & 14 Pro Max: BOGO, up to $1,000 off w/ trade-in and unlimited plan at Verizon

Apple iPhone 14 Pro & 14 Pro Max: BOGO, up to $1,000 off w/ trade-in and unlimited plan at Verizon
Looking for a more premium flagship? The good news is that Verizon's deals on the 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max are even better than those on the standard devices. Up for grabs this week is a trade-in saving of up to $1,000 off or a buy-one get-$800-off second promotion; both of which are eligible with an unlimited data plan. New customers will also get an additional $200 gift card to sweeten the deal, which can be redeemed at a number of online stores. See this same deal on the iPhone 14 Pro Max.

The best iPhone is still...

There are what look like some great deals in there. I see a free iPhone 12 at Verizon, a free iPhone 13 mini, a $10-a-month iPhone 14 Plus, and an iPhone SE (2020) for just $299.

I also see an iceberg, straight ahead.

Let's start with the $299 iPhone SE (2020). This is a lovely iPhone, if you like your handsets last-generation and with technologies that point to the past instead of the future. It's the iPhone 8 chassis with a better CPU (A13), a much better rear camera (12MP), and the ability to shoot portrait mode photos. But it's an old screen technology and instead of Face ID, you have the classic Touch ID button. And while some might appreciate the classic size and weight, that smaller phone means a smaller 1,821mAh battery too, which translates into a phone that might not last the day.

If you want to take the risk of gifting someone an SE, at least go for the iPhone SE 2022 model, which features the A15 CPU and 5G support, and can be found for as little as $429 on Amazon.

I have similar concerns about the free iPhone 13 mini. I always thought this was an adorable 5.4-inch phone. Unlike the SE, you get a better screen and Face ID. It's also a model that's at the end of its life. Apple's experiment with tiny handsets has not gone as planned and there was no mini in the iPhone 14 lineup. Just think twice before handing someone this phone as a gift. Despite being technically capable, it didn't and still won't resonate with others as a status symbol.

Verizon's free iPhone 12 looks like a perfect deal, but, again, gift displeasure is still a possibility. The iPhone 12 is the first generation of Apple's redesign; casting aside curves for flat edges. At a glance, it'll look like the iPhone 14, and that's a good thing, but it still has the larger TrueDepth module (shrunk on iPhone 13), which means a little less screen real estate. 

The iPhone 14 Plus for $10 a month at Verizon should be a no-brainer. It's 6.7 inches of delightful display. So why isn't everyone buying them? Apple might've made a mistake here by not adding just one truly "plus' feature on this big-screen iPhone.

The iPhone 14 Plus is, other than a larger battery, the iPhone 14, and that 6.1-inch handset is mostly an incremental update from the iPhone 13. If you have a family member who cherishes battery life and screen size above all else, the iPhone 14 Plus might be the right gift. However, the reality is that the phone people want is the best smartphone Apple has on offer.

A big caveat here is that some of these devices – especially the smaller ones – might be good gifts for pre-teens (8-12). Their smaller hands and fewer concerns about status mean they'll probably love whichever iPhone you get them.

For everyone else, though, you'll want to find a way to afford the iPhone 14 Pro. You can pay monthly, which means you're not footing a $999 / £1,099 / AU$1,749 bill upfront. There are also deals like Verizon's $1,000 off with a trade-in. If you have an old iPhone, or your gift recipient does, factor that in. You might also be able to get $300 off any 5G-capable iPhone model, which should include the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max: two phones that sit at the top of our best phones list.

Money is tight. I know it, but it's hard to put a price on happiness, and avoiding the pain that comes with those disheartened looks from a loved one.

More Black Friday Deals

Lance Ulanoff
US Editor in Chief

A 35-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of PCMag.com and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.

Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, Fox News, Fox Business, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.