Instagram, Apple’s 2011 “App of the Year,” just released an update to its iOS application that includes a sleek user interface, tappable notifications, a new filter, and an enhancement feature.

The app is a free photo-manipulator that allows users to snap pictures, apply hip vintage filters, and then share their edited images through a built-in social network. Users can also share their creations through other services, such as Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr.

The newest version allots a much-needed facelift and provides a more modern appearance than the previous variant by displaying an overhauled header and menu buttons (as seen in the image to the right).

“We’ve simplified the look of Instagram,” announced the San Francisco-based Company in a blog post.

Perhaps most important: Instagram now asks users if it is O.K. to upload contacts to its servers—not wanting to become the next Path.

More screenshots are available below.

The simplified service does not stop with a revamped look, however. The notification upgrade in the iOS Notification Center now brings users directly to an image, comment, or profile within the app. The company said these improved tweaks are the “first steps toward” making Instagram more interactive and understandable.

The Sierra filter also makes version 2.1 noteworthy. The element powerfully pops the yellow saturation of an image to create a warm 1970s feel while adding an eggshell-colored square border. Meanwhile, the Lux enhancement feature amplifies dull details by brightening any under-lit photograph. The app developer even provided a blog post to users interested in knowing more about Lux and how it functions.

Instagram version 2.1 is a free update and available now at the App Store. Oh, and in related news, the girlfriend of Instagram cofounder Mike Krieger recently unveiled Lovestagram— a Valentine’s Day-themed spinoff. The website uses Instagram photographs to create personal valentines for loved ones. Users can sign into their Instagram accounts through Lovestagram to start editing something special before the Cupid holiday occurs.

Anyway, back to those Instagram screenshots:

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