While Samsung and Apple remain the dominant players in global smartphone sales, watch out for Lenovo. Someday, anyway. 

Having recently passed HP as the world’s No. 1 PC manufacturer, Lenovo is moving up again as a global player in the smartphone market. As it steps up promotion and enters more markets, is the sky the limit in this product segment as well?

New data from research firm IDC finds that Lenovo is No. 4 globally in smartphone shipments with a market share of 4.7 percent. A 131 percent growth surge lifted Lenovo from just 3.1 percent a year ago, IDC says.

The performance reflects Lenovo’s drive to diversity itself from PCs to a “PC Plus” era of Internet connected devices, from smartphones to tablets to smart TVs.

But the reality is, Lenovo is far, far behind Samsung and Apple.

Samsung remains the leader – by far – with a market share of 30.4 percent, having shipped 72.4 million smartphones in the second quarter. Apple is second at 13.1 percent with 31.2 million devices shipped.

Lenovo sold 11.3 million.

However, to be fair to Lenovo, most of its sales are taking place in China (the “LePhones”) and it is yet to sell a smartphone in the United States. The company is rapidly expanding into other markets with stylish new devices such as the “K” phones that are being pitched by Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant.

Plus, new devices are in the pipeline with a K910 model reportedly featuring Qualcomm’s cutting-edge Snapdragon chip and a 5.5 inch screen.

“Lenovo returned to the smartphone Top 5 after a two-quarter absence, reaching double-digit shipments in the process,” IDC says in its latest report.” Its volume for the quarter was driven in large part by shipments to 3G operators in China where it is based. A variety of its LePhone brand family phones, such as the A728t, were among its popular models last quarter. Lenovo hopes to build on its recent success with international diversification efforts that will lead it to regions like Latin America in coming quarters.”

Overall smartphone shipments increased 52 percent from a year ago to 238 million and were 10 percent higher than in the first quarter.

Mobile phone shipments in general increased 6 percent from a year earlier to 432 million.

The IDC report can be read online.

[LENOVO ARCHIVE: Check out eight years of Lenovo stories as reported in WRAL Tech Wire.]