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Does iOS 6's Auto Layout hint that bigger iPhone will launch?

According to a new report, the addition of an Auto Layout feature in iOS 6 could be a smoking gun, indicating Apple will launch a new iPhone with a larger screen.

Some of the features coming to iOS 6.
Some of the features coming to iOS 6.
James Martin/CNET

Apple's iOS 6 software development kit comes with a new Auto Layout feature. And now, some are wondering whether that indicates Apple will be launching a new iPhone this year with a larger screen.

Auto Layout essentially allows developers to establish parameters for how user interface elements show up on a screen. Depending on a device's resolution, those elements will move to their correct place, based on the parameters established by the developer.

TechCrunch yesterday asked whether that feature indicates an iPhone with a larger display will launch soon. The blog said that it spoke with one developer who said that Auto Layout is a necessity before Apple can launch devices with different resolutions. The idea is that if Apple launches the long-rumored iPhone 5 with a 4-inch display, its resolution will be different than the iPhone 4S', requiring developers to have Auto Layout in place to keep a consistent experience across devices.

TechCrunch also pointed to tweets developers, Matthew Wilkinson and Dmitry Zakharov, sent out last week, saying that Auto Layout "screams new device sizes [are] coming soon."

But does it? Apple currently offers three iPhones. Two of them -- the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 -- come with the same 960x640 resolution. The iPhone 3GS comes with a 480x320 resolution. It's possible Apple is helping developers more easily handle that. What's more, Auto Layout could be a way for Apple to help improve how iPhone apps are displayed on iPads, though it likely wouldn't be the only solution to make them look better.

Simply put, Apple has a tendency to cover its tracks by way of reasonable doubt. And although it's entirely possible that an iPhone 5 with a 4-inch screen is launching soon, thus requiring Apple to deliver Auto Layout, it might also be a catch-up feature to address current development concerns.

CNET has contacted Apple for comment on the TechCrunch report. We will update this story when we have more information.

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