windows phone date parsing problems in Italy

Windows Phone Central's app support inbox has been flooded recently, by users complaining that news does not load correctly in the app. We've been kind of stumped on this one frankly because it's only been affecting certain users, so we've been digging.

It turns out that other apps were also running into problems (WeatherFlow is one example), and as we dug further we identified that most of the affected users were Italian, and that the issue had started on March 1st. Now, thanks to twitter user @SergioPedri and others in our forums, we've finally been able to replicate the problem. The good news is there's a workaround.

To keep this post from being too technical, there is a very common function in the C# language; DateTime.Parse(string). This function allows you to enter a formatted string of text and in turn receive a DateTime object which can then be manipulated within your software. In our app, we use this functionality to convert a post's published time to your local time, wherever you are.

The problem is, that since March 1st, when your phone is set to the Italian region, this method throws a "FormatException" (South Africa also appears to be affected). It works without a hitch for the US or UK (and many other regions), and as I'm not a developer for Windows Phone itself I can't tell you the exact issue, but it's there.

Now I should stress that we should have been handling this problem within the app, and share some of the blame for not handling date parsing with more care. We will release an update as soon as possible to address it, but as the problem started exactly on March the 1st, and we're not the only app affected, we are announcing the workaround publicly to raise awareness.

We've been in touch with the Windows Phone dev team via our channels, but in the meantime you can workaround this bug by going to your phone's settings screen and changing your regional format setting to another option. That setting is under "language+region" if you're struggling to find it. Note that you may need to restart your phone for this to take effect.

We'll keep you updated if we hear any more on this, but hopefully the Microsoft guys will respond quickly to this issue, and if they are unable to, you can contact app developers to let them know about this problem for updates to roll out.

Update: One of our readers 'operand' points out that this issue has also been brought up here on Stackoverflow, confirming that there is a bug that will last throughout the month of March.

Update 2: Re-worded the title of this article in response to ongoing discussion in the comments.