Huge free Instagram upgrade adds a host of new features

Makes messaging more intuitive

Instagram on iPhone
(Image credit: Rik Henderson / Future)
Quick Summary

Instagram has added a number of key new features to its app that improve direct messaging.

There are some fun additions, such as new themes and personalisations, while some are more functional.

Instagram's latest update is targeted directly at its DMs section, making messaging a bit more intuitive and flexible. 

Plenty of people use Instagram as their messaging app across the best smartphones, but it's lagged behind a bunch of other services since it's not really a messaging app first – that's just a byproduct of its success.

Well, the latest app update is one you'll want to get downloaded because it brings a list of useful features to DMs. The first is the ability to pin chats to the top of your inbox for quicker access.

The new Instagram features

You can pin up to three chats, whether they're groups or one-to-one conversations. All it takes is swiping left on a chat and choosing the "Pin" option. That'll be very familiar to users of WhatsApp, which works in a very similar way. 

Also arriving in Instagram is the option to turn read receipts on or off globally or per chat. This is a new setting in your account settings, under the "Messages and story replies" section, and is great if you get a bit anxious about replying to things immediately.

The sticker system is also being slightly upgraded, letting you long-press stickers to save them as favourites that will be easier to find in the future. 

Perhaps the most fun bit of all, though, is the addition of themes that you can set chat by chat. These let you customise the colour palette of the chat and its background. There are even launch options that include Love and Lollipop.

An Avatar: The Last Airbender theme also suggests that there will be plenty more branded tie-ins down the line. The whole thing is a big throwback to the days of funky chat backgrounds on the likes of MSN Messenger. 

The update to bring all these little tweaks and features to your Instagram app should be rolling out now, so you'll either get it very soon if you have auto-updating turned on.

Alternatively, you can head to the App Store or Google Play Store for Android phones to manually update your app and get them immediately if it's available. 

Max Freeman-Mills

Max is a freelance writer with years of experience in tech and entertainment. He's also a gaming expert, both with the games themselves and in testing accessories and consoles, having flexed that expertise at Pocket-lint as a features editor. He has tested all manner of tech too, from headphones and speakers to apps and software.