Fix for Windows Phone Store in-app purchase breakage nears, as developers get fed up

Running an app store is likely not an easy technical task. It is probably made more difficult when you are like Microsoft, who is rumored to be combining the Windows Phone and Windows Stores into one, or at least starting that process. Regardless, when outages happen, it can frustrate consumers. When it happens and goes on for days, you start to tick off developers.

Starting this past weekend, people with existing in-app purchases, aka 'durable IAPs', through various apps like MetroMail and Rudy Huyn's '6' apps are having different levels of success. However, the real issue appears to be for users who pay for a service, like remove ads, only to have the ads comeback, making the usual '99 cent' unlock seem like a fraud.

The problem is not app related, but rather server side with Microsoft and their Store. Developers know this as the 'ANID2 problem' and it has happened before, though this time around it seems particularly frustrating, perhaps due to the larger installed user base.

The issue

Rudy Huyn explains in our forums that the ANID2 problem stems from a list installed on your phone. This list contains all of the in-app purchases that the device is entitled to, and it is referenced by an app for verification. Evidently, some (or all) Windows Phones cannot fetch this file, or they are grabbing the wrong values, causing a failure of the IAPs to register within in the app. As a result, something you paid for to unlock, does not unlock.

This particular problem affects IAPs purchased prior to September 21 and not after.

How widespread?

Unfortunately, it is hard to judge who is and who is not affected (none of us on the WPC staff have experienced it). What is clear is that many consumers are blaming the app developer, often leaving terrible reviews or sending in a nasty email. Huyn, for instance, reportedly has many email complaints due to the popularity of his apps. Surely, other developers are experiencing the same.

Update - AppCauldron reached out to inform us they believe up to 90% of Windows Phones were affected, as collected through their data tools.

The fix and what you can do

Microsoft has a stickied thread in their developer forums describing the problem as they were made aware of it as early as Sunday. Within the last hour, they have updated the sticky with the following:

"We have identified the issue and are in the process of rolling it out to production. ETA is 9/24 in the PM or 9/25 in the AM at the latest."

Certainly, this is good news, although perhaps not for developers who are the collateral damage in this unfortunate situation.

If you have experienced this problem as a consumer in the last few days, resulting in an angry email or a negative review on the Store, Windows Phone Central implores you to revise your review. This error is certainly not the developers fault but with the lack of transparency from Microsoft to consumers, developers are being hammered by angry customers (when the blame should be directed at Microsoft).

Have you experienced problems with in-app purchases this week? Developers, how are you dealing with this situation?

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central. He is also the head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007, when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and watches. He has been reviewing laptops since 2015 and is particularly fond of 2-in-1 convertibles, ARM processors, new form factors, and thin-and-light PCs. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.