Now that Instagram is closer to becoming an official part of Facebook, it’s making some changes within the app. A new iOS update hit the App Store today, and it includes some impressive stuff, mostly around discoverability, visuals and speed:

What’s New in Version 2.5.0
– Revamped profile tab
– Search for users and tags in the Explore tab
– Improvements to commenting
– User search autocompletes based on people you follow
– Visual improvements
– Speed optimizations
– Optionally share likes to Facebook (enable in your Profile > Sharing Settings > Facebook)

The biggest noticeable change is the new “Explore” tab, which includes all of the popular photos, as well as a search box to find users and photos by hashtag.

photo 11 Instagram gets its first iOS facelift since being acquired by Facebook, gets new Explore tab photo 12 Instagram gets its first iOS facelift since being acquired by Facebook, gets new Explore tab

Additionally, the team is trying to get you to share your Instagram likes to your Facebook timeline by tweaking your settings. This is similar to the changes made in the newest version of foursquare, which leverages Facebook’s newly minted “official like.

The app does load extremely fast now, and comments are nearly immediate. For those of you who are Instagram power-users, you’ll find that the app feels “lighter”, and even the camera pops up quicker when you want to take a photo.

This is clearly why Facebook targeted Instagram for acquisition, as the team was clearly working on making social connections easier within the app. Making friends, so to speak, is Facebook’s game, so it’s a perfect fit.

There’s no word on whether an Android update will fast-follow, but we’ll keep an eye out for you.

Instagram for iOS

UPDATE: Even though the Google Play page doesn’t reflect it, Instagram says it has released a new Android version as well, including:

- Improved search functionality
– Support for location data taken from Gallery images when geotag is selected
– Fix for HTC Sensation 4G freezing using tilt shift
– Improved support and bugfixes for devices using the Instagram advanced camera
– Addresses tilt shift issues on lower resolution images