Foursquare Labs has today rolled out a huge update to its namesake app. Arguably the most popular among location-based apps, Foursquare has been substantially upgraded, and it’s easy to see how the current batch of changes have come together to make the app jump from version 4.2.3 all the way to version 5.0.

One of the most noticeable changes is the streamlining of the app’s navigation tabs. Previously, there were Friends, Explore, Check In, Lists, and Me, with Check being front and center. Now, there are only Friends, Explore, and Me. What happened to Check In? Isn’t that what Foursquare is all about in the first place? You visit a coffee shop, you open the app, and you check in. Well, I hasten to add that Check In remains intact. It’s only been repositioned to a more ergonomic spot, at the top right corner of the screen where it can be more easily reached by your trusty thumb.

Foursquare 5.0 offers a tile-based profile view.

But the removal of Check In from the tabs suggests that Foursquare has shifted its focus to exploration, i.e., Explore. More than being an app that’s quite similar to Path, which you usually open to check in to places, Foursquare is now also the app you open to discover particular places you might want to check in to. Think of it as Yelp, only a bit smarter. In making recommendations, the app takes into account the places you’ve been to as well as where your friends are.

On to the Friends tab, Foursquare now packs more relevant information into its activity stream, with more prominence given to commenting and liking. And the Me tab lets you view your profile at a glance with its grid of tiles representing your friends, stats, photos, tips, badges, and lists.

Foursquare 5.0 is available now in the App Store for free. Foursquare claims to be an app that “makes the world easier to use.” I don’t know about the world, but the app itself, having improved in leaps and bounds, is now easier to use indeed. Download it now and explore it for yourself.