Beijing, Jan 24 (AP/UNB) — Chinese tech giant Huawei announced plans Wednesday for a next-generation smartphone that will use its own technology instead of U.S. components, maneuvering to gain a competitive edge and sidestep complaints it is a security risk.
The leading supplier of network switching gear for phone companies, Huawei Technologies Ltd. is spending heavily to develop its own chips, an area where the U.S. dominates. That can reduce Huawei's multibillion-dollar annual components bill and help insulate it against possible supply disruptions when U.S.-Chinese relations are strained.
The handset, billed by Huawei as the first foldable fifth-generation smartphone, will be unveiled next month at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the industry's biggest annual event, said Richard Yu, CEO of the company's consumer unit.
The phone is based on Huawei's own Kirin 980 chipset and Balong 5000 modem. The company says the Kirin 980, released in August, performs on a par with Qualcomm Inc.'s widely used Snapdragon 845.
Sales of Huawei smartphones and other consumer products rose more than 50 percent last year over 2017, showing "no influence" from Western security warnings, Yu told reporters. He said the consumer unit's sales topped $52 billion, or more than half of the $100 billion in annual revenue the company has forecast. Huawei has yet to release 2018 results for the whole company.
"In this complicated political environment, we still maintain strong growth," Yu said.
Chinese companies are trying to develop technology to better compete with Western suppliers in telecoms, solar power, electric cars, biotechnology and other fields.
The ruling Communist Party's plans for state-led development of such industries, along with robotics and artificial intelligence, helped trigger a trade war with President Donald Trump.
Both sides have raised tariffs on tens of billions of dollars of each other's goods in the dispute over American complaints Beijing steals or pressures foreign companies to hand over technology. Washington also says Chinese technology plans violate Beijing's market-opening obligations.
Huawei surpassed Apple as the No. 2 global smartphone brand behind Samsung in mid-2018. It uses Qualcomm in its high-end fourth-generation smartphones and earlier Kirin versions in lower-end models. The company, based in the southern city of Shenzhen near Hong Kong, also has developed chips for servers and mobile devices.
Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Ltd. already make their own chips.
Qualcomm has far more smartphone chip technology but Huawei is catching up, said Xi Wang of IDC.
"Generally speaking, Huawei's chips are equal to Qualcomm chips in performance," Wang said. "Not only at the mid-level but at the high end, Huawei can compete with Qualcomm."
Huawei, founded in 1987 by a former military engineer, has rejected accusations it is controlled by the ruling Communist Party or modifies its equipment to allow eavesdropping.
Its U.S. market evaporated after a congressional panel labeled Huawei and its smaller Chinese rival ZTE Corp. security risks in 2012 and told phone companies to avoid dealing with them.
ZTE was nearly driven into bankruptcy last year after the Washington cut off access to U.S. technology over its exports to Iran and North Korea. President Donald Trump restored access after ZTE paid a $1 billion fine and agreed to replace its executive team and install U.S.-chosen compliance officers.
Australia, Japan and some other governments also have imposed curbs on use of Huawei technology.
The company has stepped up efforts to mollify security fears after its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, was arrested in Canada on Dec. 1 on U.S. charges she lied to banks about trade with Iran.
Huawei's founder and CEO, Ren Zhengfei, is Meng's father. In a rare public appearance, he told foreign reporters in a 2½-hour interview on Jan. 15 that he would reject requests from Chinese authorities for confidential information about its customers.
Yu said that despite "political noise" in some countries, Huawei sales outside the United States haven't suffered due to security concerns. The company says it serves 45 of the 50 biggest global phone companies and has signed contracts with 30 carriers to test 5G technology.
"Worldwide, all the carriers love us," said Yu.
Yu repeated Ren's assurances that Huawei has never received an official request for confidential information about customers.
"At Huawei, we never do these kinds of things," he said. "We always protect our customer."
New York, Jan 24 (AP/UNB) — Amazon is bringing delivery robots to the streets of a Seattle suburb.
The online shopping giant says it started to test self-driving robots in Snohomish County, Washington, Wednesday that can bring Amazon packages to shoppers' doorsteps.
The robots are light blue, about the size of a Labrador, have six wheels and the Amazon smile logo stamped on its side, according to Amazon photos . Six of them will be roaming the sidewalks and streets of the neighborhood.
Amazon says a worker will accompany the robots at first, but it didn't provide additional details of how the service would work. The company did not respond to questions about the test.
Several companies have been testing similar delivery robots on college campuses that deliver fast food or snacks to students.
Amazon says its robot, which it is calling Scout, can navigate around pets and pedestrians.
Bremeverhaven, Jan 24 (AP/UNB) — Scientists prepared Thursday to embark on an unprecedented, years-long mission to explore the Indian Ocean and document changes taking place beneath the waves that could affect billions of people in the surrounding region over the coming decades.
The ambitious expedition will delve into one of the last major unexplored frontiers on the planet, a vast body of water that's already feeling the effects of global warming. Understanding the Indian Ocean's ecosystem is important not just for the species that live in it, but also for an estimated 2.5 billion people at home in the region — from East Africa, the Arabian peninsula, South and Southeast Asia.
The Nekton Mission, supported by over 40 organizations, will conduct further dives in other parts of the Indian Ocean over three years. The research will contribute to a summit on the state of the Indian Ocean planned for late 2021.
The Ocean Zephyr is preparing to leave Bremerhaven, Germany, on the first leg of trip. Researchers will spend seven weeks surveying underwater life, map the sea floor and drop sensors to depths of up to 2,000 meters (6,560 feet) in the seas around the Seychelles.
Little is known about the watery world below depths of 30 meters (100 feet), which scientists from Britain and the Seychelles will be exploring with two crewed submarines and a remotely operated submersible in March and April.
Ronny Jumeau, the Seychelles' ambassador to the United Nations, said such research is vital to helping the island nation understand its vast ocean territory.
While the country's 115 islands together add up to just 455 square kilometers (176 sq. miles) of land — about the same as San Antonio, Texas — its exclusive economic zone stretches to 1.4 million square kilometers (540 million square miles) of sea, an area almost the size of Alaska.
Jumeau said the Seychelles aims to become a leader in the development of a "blue economy" that draws on the resources of the ocean. The archipelago relies on fishing and tourism, but has lately also been exploring the possibility of extracting oil and gas from beneath the sea floor.
"Key to this is knowing not only what you have in the ocean around you, but where it is and what is its value," he said. "It is only when you know this that you can properly decide what to exploit and what to protect and leave untouched."
"Research expeditions such as the Nekton Mission are therefore vital to help us fill those gaps and better know our ocean space and marine resources to make wise decisions in planning the future of our blue economy," Jumeau added.
The island nation of fewer than 100,000 people is already feeling the effects of climate change, with rising water temperatures bleaching its coral reefs.
"Our ocean is undergoing rapid ecological transformation by human activities," said Callum Roberts, a marine conservation biologist at the University of York, England, who is a trustee of the mission.
"Seychelles are a critical beacon and bellwether for marine conservation in the Indian Ocean and globally," he said.
The mission's principal scientist, Lucy Woodall of Oxford University, said the researchers expect to discover dozens of new species, from corals and sponges to larger creatures like types of dog-sharks.
The Associated Press is accompanying the expedition and will provide live underwater video from the dives, using new optical transmission technology to send footage from the submarines to the ship and from there, by satellite, to the world.
Cape Canaveral, Jan 24 (AP/UNB) — Astronomers managed to capture the moment of an impact during this week's eclipsed moon.
Spanish astrophysicist Jose Maria Madiedo of the University of Huelva said Wednesday it appears a rock from a comet slammed into the moon during the total lunar eclipse late Sunday and early Monday. The strike was seen by telescopes in Spain and elsewhere as a bright flash.
Madiedo said it's the first impact flash ever seen during a lunar eclipse, although such crater-forming impacts are common.
The object hit at an estimated 10 miles (17 kilometers) per second, and was 22 pounds (10 kilograms) and 12 inches (30 centimeters) across, according to Madiedo.
Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles also recorded the impact during its livestream of the eclipse. A second flash was seen a minute after the first by some observers, said Anthony Cook, an astronomical observer at Griffith.
"It was in the brightest part of the moon's image," Cook said of the second suspected strike, "and there might not be enough contrast for the flash to be visible in our video."
Madiedo said lunar impact monitoring generally is conducted five days before and after a new moon, when flashes can be easily observed. To take advantage of the three-plus-hour eclipse, he set up four extra telescopes in addition to the four he operates at the observatory in Seville. "I did not want to miss any potential impact event," he explained in an email.
"I could not sleep for almost two days, setting up and testing the extra instruments, and performing the observation during the night of Jan. 21," he wrote. "I was really exhausted when the eclipse was over."
Then computer software alerted him to the impact.
"I jumped out of the chair I was sitting on. I am really happy, because I think that the effort was rewarded," he said.
Moon monitoring can help scientists better predict the rate of impacts, not just at the moon but on Earth, Madiedo noted. He helps run the Moon Impacts Detection and Analysis System, or MIDAS , in Spain.
Sydney, Jan 22 (Xinhua/UNB) -- An extensive study into the health of Australia's Great Barrier Reef is underway this month, with a 25-day data collecting journey canvassing bleach affected parts of the reef not observed since 2016.
The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) revealed details of the mission on Monday, with the organization's largest research vessel carrying a team of 18 specialists to survey the damage done by recent coral bleaching events, as well as collecting general data about marine life.
AIMS senior research scientist Dr Line Bay, who was on board for the first half of the trip, told Xinhua that coral reefs are particularly sensitive to the effects of global warming, making it vitally important to monitor them.
"We hadn't been to that part of the reef since before the bleaching so we went back to resurvey these reefs to look at the health and condition of both the coral communities, but also fish populations and sharks," Bay said.
Coral bleaching occurs when coral reefs are exposed to higher than usual water temperatures and prolonged periods of direct sunlight.
The Great Barrier Reef experienced two significant bleaching events in 2016 and 2017, the consequences of which were only just starting to be understood.
Bay's team made the most of the 34.9-meter modern research vessel, Solanda, using the boat's onboard wet lab to conduct heat stress tests on corals which had survived bleaching events.
While the study is still underway, Bay is tentatively optimistic about her findings so far, saying that not only did she see low numbers of a notorious species of starfish which damages the reef, but also seeing some resilience in the reef itself.
"What we could see is that there was variation among species, so not all coral species responded in the same way. We expected to find that," Bay said.
"However, we could also see that we're getting variation among individuals. And we take that as being a positive sign because if there's some individuals that do better than others then there's the potential for adaptation."
Coral reefs are widely recognized as being highly sensitive to anthropogenic warming, which considering the vital part they play in supporting life both above and below the water, Bay said is concerning for all.
"I think that there's no doubt that we need action on climate change, it's a problem we have to tackle on a global level," she said.
The voyage departed Cooktown, a town in northeastern Australia, on Jan. 4 and will conclude its journey on Jan. 29.